Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to address the Senate Select Committee hearing on the Cost of Living to highlight the impacts on Catholic school communities, with past president of the Australian Catholic Principals Association, Ann Rebgetz. 

I spoke about the additional financial pressures on Catholic school families, because they are expected to make a contribution to their children’s education which is calculated by the Capacity to Contribute measure that assesses family income. Whereas, public school families are asked to make a much smaller voluntary contribution.

For Catholic schools, government funding makes up around 74 per cent of educational costs annually with around $4 billion in after-tax dollars from parent contributions. Our families also contribute nearly 90 per cent of the costs required to fund school buildings and other capital works, which is around $2 billion annually.

Our schools and dioceses are very aware of the challenges families face, particularly in times of high inflation and interest rates. To combat this financial burden, there are a range of measures including sibling discounts, automatic fee reductions for Health Care Card holders, fee relief for financial hardship, scholarships and bursaries. As an example, in one of our state systems over 40 per cent of students received some form of fee concession or relief.

In my evidence to the Senate Committee hearing, I raised a number of concerns including:

  • Maintaining appropriate indexation on school funding
  • Taking a sector-neutral approach to funding and support for programs addressing the national teacher shortage crisis and disadvantaged communities
  • Capital support for non-government schools

I also spoke about the Productivity Commission draft report that canvased the removal of the deductible gift recipient (DGR) status for schools which would have a dire effect on the ability of our school communities to raise funds for school infrastructure.

If this was to proceed, it would further impact the educational opportunities of families who seek a Catholic education in their local area, and create increased challenges for Catholic schools to maintain and renew ageing infrastructure and facilities to provide a contemporary and fit-for-purpose learning environment for our students.

The NCEC has made a submission and I will be speaking at the Productivity Commission’s hearing today (14 February) to address this issue in greater detail.

Jacinta Collins
National Catholic education executive director