Sydney, Australia, Sep 21, 2018 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A $4.6 billion funding package for Catholic and independent schools in Australia has won the support of a national Catholic education group, which says the plan corrects key flaws from the previous funding model.
“Families can only have school choice if there is an affordable alternative to free, comprehensive government schools,” said Ray Collins, acting executive director of the National Catholic Education Commission.
“If the only option is a high-fee school, choice is restricted to those parents rich enough to afford high fees.”
The National Catholic Education Commission has given its full support to the new funding package, announced Thursday by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The plan includes $3.2 billion to fund non-government schools through a new model over the next decade. It also includes a $1.2 billion “choice and affordability fund” to support rural and drought-affected schools and other schools that require extra aid.
Morrison stressed the importance of school choice, while also reiterating a commitment to government schools, which will receive increased funding, from $7.3 billion this year to $13.7 billion in 2029, according to The Guardian.
The plan replaces a controversial 2107 funding model, which had been criticized for its geographically-based methodology of determining how much funding each non-government school required. This process, Collins said, “was flawed because it assumed all families from the same neighborhood were equally wealthy.” Many Catholic schools argued that their students often came from less-wealthy families in wealthier neighborhoods.
“Hundreds of primary schools would have been forced to double or triple their fees because of the previous model’s very narrow interpretation of ‘need’. This would have rendered those schools unaffordable to most Australian families, denying them the schooling choice that has been available in those areas for decades,” Collins said.
The new plan will calculate a school’s financial data based on parental income collected from tax information rather than geographical census data.
Collins said that while a few technical questions with the 2017 school funding model must still be resolved, the new plan goes a long way toward making Catholic schools a viable option for all Australians.
According to the National Catholic Education Commission, one in five Australian students attends a Catholic school, for a total of some 765,000 students in 1741 schools.
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