PRIVATE SCHOOLS in $2bn Windfall
Anna Patty November 20, 2006
PRIVATE schools across Australia are receiving at least $2 billion more than their entitlements under the Federal Government's school funding scheme.
According to Senate estimates committee data, analysed by the Greens, the Catholic school system and independent Catholic schools receive the lion's share of this money, netting an additional $1.6 billion for 2005-08.
Other independent schools received $428 million above their assessed rate under the Government's controversial "socio-economic status" (SES) method of calculating assistance to individual private schools.
Under the formula, the schools would normally be entitled to about $23 billion over the four-year period. But because of a "grandfather clause" that protected wealthier schools from losing out if the formula was fully applied, many better-off schools have been able to maintain their funding at a far higher level.
These schools were funded at more than their formula levels over the four years at a cost to the Commonwealth education budget of $2.071 billion, the Greens say.
The Catholic school system has its funding maintained at a level equivalent to 58 per cent of the cost of educating a child in the public system. It is seeking to increase that to at least 60 per cent, according to the Catholic Education Commission's executive director, Brian Croke.
The Federal Government is reviewing its funding formula, which on current estimates will deliver about $27.6 billion to private schools during the next four-year cycle, from 2009 to 2012.
The Government will spend a total of $40 billion on public and private schools over the four years and is privately consulting the main stakeholders.
Greens education spokesman John Kaye, an engineering academic with a background in financial modelling, said the figures challenged the Federal Government's approach to private school funding. "The Howard Government cannot have it both ways. Either they genuinely believe in their SES system or they don't."
The executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, Geoff Newcombe, said the non-government schools received what they were entitled to according to levels legislated by the Federal Parliament.
Dr Croke said the criticism from the Greens represented a failure to understand how the formula works.
Story Courtesy The Age www.theage.com.au