Welcome news on Catholic School funding

As a parent about to embark upon the costly business of sending my children to a Catholic secondary college, this news is most welcome: Bi-partisan support for Catholic school funding:

Catholic education in Victoria received an early Christmas present on 9 November when the Labor Government announced that funding for Catholic schools would be increased to 25% of the cost of education in a government school if it wins the state election…

The Coalition pledged in 2008 to increase funding to Catholic schools to 25% of the cost of education in a government school if it is elected to government on 27 November.

The almost $200 million funding boost, also includes an additional $5m for teacher professional development

In welcoming the decision, Mr Elder said Labor’s commitment would particularly benefit Catholic families in disadvantaged areas.

…[CEO chief executive officer Mr Stephen Elder said:] “Catholic schools continue to serve families in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the state. I have no doubt the decision will be widely welcomed by Catholic school communities.”

…“The personal story of Australia’s first saint – St Mary of the Cross – is a powerful illustration of Catholic education’s mission to serve the most disadvantaged in our community. The announcement will provide funding to Catholic education to continue this legacy,” said Mr Elder.

School fees have been rising steadily, mostly due to a lack of Government funding. My own daughter’s fees for next year have risen about %10 from what we were told when we first enrolled her last year. Sending both my daughters to Catholic secondary college will cost me about 20% of my annual income.

If you do the sums you realise that parents who send their children to Catholic Schools are in fact (even under this new funding) saving the government 75% of what it would cost to educate their children in State Schools. I think we need some recognition of that.

All that being said, we are a long way from the days of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop. One reason why Catholic schools are costly for parents today (although no where near the cost of other independant schools) is that we no longer have the “cheap labour” force that once supplied teachers for our systems, ie. religious sisters and brothers. What a boost it would be for the Catholic School system if St Mary’s vision were to become truly alive again today!

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Welcome news on Catholic School funding

  1. matthias

    Good news indeeed. I take it Schutz that you could be looking towards catholic secondary colleges in either Box hill,Ringwood or Belgrave. My experience as aTAFE teacher and having had students from all three of these schools ,was always positive.
    Watch the AEU and the usual biggots winge.

  2. marcel

    I think the bi-partisan support for Catholic school funding is instructive. Because Catholic schools in Victoria inculcate the values of compliant servitude to Caeser over and above the Church, why should Messrs. Brumby and Baillieu stop the flow of money?

    Ironically enough, after being a staple issue for sincere Catholic Action for decades in Australia, state aid for Catholic schools was actually the death knell for the whole system.

    I would go as far as to say that THIS Government’s cushy relationship with the CEO is proof positive that far from being a ‘sign of contradiction’, our Catholic schools are very much part of the problem. Perhaps all the Catholic schools should be sold to the Government and we can start over again.

  3. Peter Golding

    This is good news from the major parties.
    Another reason NOT to vote for the greens who are committed to cutting funding.

  4. Louise

    you are right, David. If Catholics are properly living out the Church’s teaching, then many couples (not all, of course) would have four children or more. It would only be possible for most of these families to give their children a Catholic education by homeschooling them, or sending them to a school staffed by religious sisters or brothers. Religious sisters and brothers live in a community, keeping their individual costs down, and do not require a “living wage,” since they have no family members to support. The religious community supports itself and relies for the rest on charity. It is a great scandal, imo, that Catholic education (if that is what were given in Catholic schools) cannot be had for the children of low income families.

    • Peregrinus

      The withdrawal of religious brothers and sisters is not the main reason for the rising costs of Catholic education.

      When labour inputs were the main cost of education, then the willingness of religious to work for a great deal less than lay staff would have been paid did make a big difference. However the viability of Catholic schools operating on this model was increasingly threatened as educational standard rose, schools were expected to have educationally optimal class sizes, to have sports facilities, science facilities, etc, and more and more textbooks and equipment had to be provided. Long before the decline in vocations set in the church authorities recognised this and embarked on a campaign to secure state funding so that Catholic schools could meet the rising standards of what was regarded as appropriate and acceptable educational provision.

      The notion that, if we had lots of brothers and sisters willing to work for subsistence rates, Catholic education of an acceptable standard could be provided entirely funded by fees set at a level which would enable someone on average earnings to put, say, four children through school until year 12 is, I think, unrealistic. Catholic education will be subsidised, or it will be provided to relatively few, and the church has recognised this for at least the last sixty years. The decline in vocations may have intensified the problem, but it didn’t cause it.

      If we did have a remarkable rise in vocations to the religious life, it wouldn’t necessarily be to the teaching orders. The teaching orders arose at a particular time in the life of the church when there was a particular need for them. That need has largely passed. It is perfectly possible for someone who has a vocation to engage in Christian education to follow that vocation without entering the religious life, and there is no reason to assume that anyone who has a vocation to the religious life also has a vocation to teaching. The (lay and religious) movements which are growing at the present time are not, for the most part, those involved in teaching. The Holy Spirit may be telling us something there. The main purpose of the religious life is not, after all, to provide the Catholic community with a cheap alternative to paying its teachers properly.

  5. Louise

    Marcel is also correct, however, that whenever Caesar chips in, the system goes to pot. That’s why it’s even more imperative to have religious brothers and sisters in charge again; Caesar does need to butt out (even though, in justice, the guvvermint ought to provide some funding for Catholic schools), yet the fees need to be affordable.

    A voucher system would probably be better.

  6. Peregrinus

    “If you do the sums you realise that parents who send their children to Catholic Schools are in fact (even under this new funding) saving the government 75% of what it would cost to educate their children in State Schools. I think we need some recognition of that.”

    Not quite.

    25% is the figure which it is proposed that the State should pay. However the Catholic schools receive the bulk of their funding from the Federal government. Currently for the Catholic school sector this is set at about 56% of state government expenditure on public schools (though that may – I don’t know – vary from school to school according to financial need).

    On average, so, if the 25% figure is implemented, then Catholic schools will receive (25% + 56% =) 81% of the public funding that government schools get.

    It may be true that the result of my sending my child to a Catholic school is that the State government is relieved of 75% of what it would otherwise have to pay. The great bulk of this, though, is covered by the Federal government (and so ultimately by taxpayers at large), rather than by the fees that I pay. It may be my choice that triggers this shift in costs from State to Federal, but it’s mostly other people’s money that replaces the state funding.