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School Funding Model Fails to Deliver Consistency and Fairness

National Catholic Education Commission executive director Christian Zahra says new analysis of the Turnbull Government’s school funding model shows that despite assurances of a “consistent” approach to non-government schools, Catholic systemic schools will be disadvantaged by $1.1 billion over the next decade because of inconsistent treatment of those schools.

“When announcing his new 10-year school funding model, Minister Birmingham outlined his vision for how schools would be funded,” Mr Zahra explained.

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Government Imposes Unfair Funding Policy on Australian Schools

National Catholic Education Commission executive director Christian Zahra says while Catholic schools across Australia are bitterly disappointed that the Federal Government has imposed a flawed funding policy on them without consultation, they will today continue to do what they have done for 200 years – provide a great education to one in five Australian students.

A rushed process to overhaul school funding concluded early today, with Education Minister Simon Birmingham doing a range of special deals with cross-bench Senators to force his education funding package through the Federal Parliament.

“While the cross-bench Senators were consulted, educational leaders, schools and families were locked out of a process that has now put in place a flawed 10-year school funding plan,” Mr Zahra said.

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Minister's Tweaks Fail to Address Concerns of Catholic Schools

National Catholic Education Commission executive director Christian Zahra says after two days of media speculation about possible changes to the Government’s school funding reforms, a meeting with Education Minister Simon Birmingham has failed to satisfy Catholic education leaders that minor tweaks to the legislation will provide certainty for Catholic schools and their students and families.

“This evening, representatives of the NCEC met briefly with Minister Birmingham, who set out the minor changes he is proposing to make to his legislation in response to the very serious concerns that the Catholic school sector has expressed over the past several months,” Mr Zahra said.

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Minister's Own Department Exposes His Cuts to Catholic Schools

National Catholic Education Commission executive director Christian Zahra says the truth about Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s massive cuts to Catholic schools across Australia has been revealed by the Department of Education at the eleventh hour.

“With the vote on this legislation due in a few days, the wheels have well and truly fallen off the Minister’s wagon, with figures from his own Department showing that his policy will rip billions of dollars out of low-fee Catholic schools,” Mr Zahra said.

“For nearly two months, Minister Birmingham has been going around the country saying that his school funding model not only delivers needs-based funding, but also delivers funding increases to all but a small number of schools.”

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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.

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