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Minister's 'Whatever it Takes' Approach Will Hurt Catholic School Families

National Catholic Education Commission executive director Christian Zahra says Education Minister Simon Birmingham should be listening to educators and parents about how he can improve his widely-criticised school funding plan, rather than trying to win votes in the Senate with a “whatever it takes” approach to policy-making.

Media reports today outline how Minister Birmingham is seeking to gain the support of the Australian Greens and other cross-bench Senators to get his rushed school funding policy through the Senate before Parliament’s winter recess.

“In an unprecedented move, Catholic education leaders were shut out of the development of the Government’s school funding policy. Now, once again, educators and families are being left out of important discussions about the future of Australian schooling while the Minister consults with politicians instead,” Mr Zahra said

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Catholic Schools and Families Unite to Defend School Choice

The National Catholic Education Commission and Catholic School Parents Australia have warned the Government that the two organisations will continue to inform concerned Catholic school families and members of the wider community about the dangers of Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s defective school funding plan.

With the Senate expected to vote on the Government’s amendments to the Australian Education Act next week, there will be a concerted effort to ensure the voices of those who value a Catholic education and those who value school choice are heard.

“We know that Minister Birmingham is under pressure as more and more people – including his colleagues – come to understand the many problems in his proposed model,” NCEC executive director Christian Zahra said.

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Government Pursues Speed Over Substance on School Funding

The Turnbull Government seems more intent on rushing through its school funding plan than devising a genuinely needs-based model to support students in all Australian schools, the National Catholic Education Commission has said.

In a report into the Government’s planned amendments to the Australian Education Act tabled in the Senate this afternoon, Turnbull Government Senators effectively ignored the views of 1,737 Catholic schools and the systems that operate those schools.

“The Government has basically thrown up its hands and suggested some of the fundamental aspects of its plan, including the Schooling Resource Standard and the Socio-Economic Status methodology, are too hard to fix,” NCEC executive director Christian Zahra said.

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Politicians Warned About Risks of Locking in Flawed Model

The National Catholic Education Commission has written to federal politicians to ensure they understand the impacts of the Government’s overhaul of school funding before the political debate resumes in Parliament this week.

NCEC acting executive director Danielle Cronin said the letter outlines some of the problems with the way school funding will be allocated, as well as identifying the areas of confusion caused by the publication and distribution of incorrect figures.

“The Government is seeking to implement a 10-year school funding model despite there being widespread criticism of the fundamental issues that determine how the Commonwealth allocates funding to schools and students,” Ms Cronin said.

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Catholic Schools Stand Up for Real Needs-Based Funding

Catholic education leaders have today told a Senate Committee that they cannot support the Turnbull Government’s school funding policy because it fails to deliver real needs-based funding.

Addressing a Senate Inquiry into amendments to the Australian Education Act, the National Catholic Education Commission said the Turnbull Government is seeking to entrench a model that fails to deliver funding that meets the needs of all Australian school students.

“The Government’s claim that it is delivering needs-based funding under its policy rings hollow when there is near-unanimous agreement that the Socio-Economic Status (SES) methodology on which non-government schools are funded is flawed,” NCEC acting executive director Danielle Cronin said.

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Despite Cuts, Catholic Schools Want to Keep Fees Affordable

Catholic education leaders are committed to maintaining an affordable and accessible Catholic school system and trying to keep fee increases to a minimum despite funding cuts to more than 600 schools across the country.

National Catholic Education Commission acting executive director Danielle Cronin says analysis of the Turnbull Government’s school funding model has found that 617 Catholic schools will be allocated less Commonwealth funding in 2018 than they were allocated this year. In dozens of cases, that funding cut will be more than 50 per cent next year.

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Senate Inquiry Must Investigate Concerns About New Funding Model

Australia’s school education landscape would look radically different if the affordable and accessible network of Catholic schools was jeopardised by the Government’s proposed funding reforms, the National Catholic Education Commission has warned.

In its submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Turnbull Government’s proposed legislative changes, the NCEC explains that Catholic school leaders, state and territory ministers and other stakeholders are rightly making the community and politicians stop and think about the Minister’s attempts to secure a decade-long school funding deal.

“A 10-year funding model should not be locked into legislation until there is a high degree of confidence among the Parliament, the community and all school authorities in the measures that underpin the model so that fair and equitable outcomes for all Australian schools can be realised,” the submission reads.

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Minister's Actions Don't Match Rhetoric on System Autonomy

Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s comments supporting the autonomy of school systems don’t quite mesh with some of his actions in relation to systemic Catholic, government and independent schools, National Catholic Education Commission acting executive director Danielle Cronin said today.

“On a number of occasions this week, Senator Birmingham has stated that he has ‘respect’ for the independence of Catholic school systems to allocate funding according to their needs-based models and that he supports the retention of system autonomy,” Ms Cronin said.

“The Minister is indeed allowing systems to continue to distribute Commonwealth funding based on local assessments of their schools’ needs, but the rollout of his new school funding policy has undermined this autonomy in other important ways.”

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Educators Best Placed to Deliver Needs-Based Funding

The National Catholic Education Commission says those working in Catholic and government school systems are the experts when it comes to ensuring individual school communities get the funding they need to provide a quality education.

NCEC acting executive director Danielle Cronin said almost 90 per cent of Australian schools – Catholic, government and some independent schools – receive block funding for their jurisdiction that is then allocated to schools based on locally-assessed needs.

“The educational realities of schools across the country are diverse and complex and a spreadsheet generated in Canberra is only ever going to be a blunt instrument in terms of providing genuine and responsive needs-based funding at the local level,” Ms Cronin said.

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Government Modelling Reveals Catastrophic Cuts in Some Schools

The National Catholic Education Commission has said the Turnbull Government’s rhetoric around its school funding reforms is crumbling as the reality of drastic funding cuts to some school communities becomes apparent.

“Minister Birmingham is publicly claiming that his new funding model delivers needs-based, sector-blind funding,” NCEC acting executive director Danielle Cronin said.

“If the Minister is indeed delivering what he claims, why are Catholic school systems and state and territory education ministers condemning the plan? Those responsible for running almost 90 per cent of Australia’s schools are clear that this funding reform proposal will not deliver what schools and students need."

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Statement on Appointment of New NCEC Executive Director

Statement from Bishops Commission for Catholic Education chair Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB:

Following a thorough national search and the identification of a number of highly-qualified candidates, the Bishops Commission for Catholic Education is pleased to announce Christian Zahra will serve as the next executive director of the National Catholic Education Commission.

Across a range of spheres – including politics, community development and business – Christian has been a major contributor to Australian society over the past two decades. In this new role, he will help to shape the educational opportunities of the one in five children and young people being educated in the 1,737 Catholic schools across the country.

Click here to read the full statement.

Catholic Schools Will Keep Fighting for Better Deal for Students

National Catholic Education Commission acting executive director Danielle Cronin says the Turnbull Government should continue to respond to Catholic education’s serious concerns about how its new school funding policy will affect Catholic schools, teachers and families.

In legislation introduced into the Parliament today, the Government has adopted the NCEC’s recommendation that there be a minimum indexation rate from 2021 for all schools, reversing its previous position and ensuring that indexation won’t fall below 3 per cent in the final seven years of the 10-year funding policy.

“Minister Birmingham and his Government have shown that consultation and negotiation with Catholic education leaders can bring about better policy outcomes for Australian students,” Ms Cronin said.

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Budget Locks in Raw Deal for Catholic School Students

National Catholic Education Commission acting executive director Danielle Cronin says tonight’s Federal Budget has confirmed that funding for Catholic school students will increase more slowly than their peers in other schools – and funding will decrease in ACT Catholic schools.

“It has been a difficult week for Catholic school leaders as they have grappled with a new funding package that could undermine the future of their schools and systems. They also supported concerned parents and explained how planned changes to school funding will disadvantage students, teachers and families who choose a Catholic school,” Ms Cronin said.

“Catholic school parents, teachers and principals will continue to fight for the educational needs of the 770,000 children in Catholic schools as the Budget shows government schools will continue to enjoy funding increases at much higher levels than Catholic and independent schools."

Click here to read the full media release.

Government Peddles "Fake News" on New Funding Website

National Catholic Education Commission acting executive director Danielle Cronin says the Turnbull Government has further alienated the education community by publishing misleading information about the actual Commonwealth funding amounts that more than 85 per cent of Australian schools receive today and in future years.

The new “School Funding Estimator” was launched last night as part of the Government’s recent “Quality Schools” policy announcement, several days later than expected.

“As pressure mounts on the Turnbull Government, a new website was launched under the cover of darkness that will actually serve to confuse parents and create competition and misinformation for schools about their funding levels,” Ms Cronin said.

Click here to read the full media release.

Devil in the Detail for Catholic School Funding

The Federal Government must reveal the basis for its funding calculations or its new plan
will have no credibility, the National Catholic Education Commission said today.

“The Government has claimed Catholic schools will be better off under its new proposal,”
acting Executive Director Danielle Cronin said.

“However, we have been unable to replicate the Government’s model to test its
calculations. The Government has refused to provide sufficient detail to our sector to enable us to
understand and test the actual impact of the Government’s proposal on school funding
allocations for next year.”

Click here to read the full media release.

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