UPDATE: Tanya Plibersek and Bill Shortern live from last night’s event.
Canberra’s Catholic school communities are gearing up to fight proposed cuts to their funding with 500 people expected to attend an urgent public meeting tonight.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Opposition spokesperson for Education Tanya Plibersek, ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja and Member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann are among a host of political heavyweights who have confirmed they will attend the meeting which will be held at St Clare’s College in Griffith tonight at 6 pm.
The meeting has been called to discuss the impact of Federal Government ‘Gonski 2.0’ education funding changes announced last week which the Catholic Education Office estimates could cost ACT parents an extra $3,000 a year in fees for their children.
“It’s really a kick in the guts to our dedicated teachers, our dedicated school leaders, that the Government thinks that it’s okay to reduce funding every year for every Catholic school in the ACT,” Catholic Education Office Archdiocese of Canberra & Goulburn director Ross Fox told the ABC’s Lateline program recently.
In a letter to parents and carers of Catholic school students, Mr Fox said that the funding cuts will come into effect from January 2018 and each year the gap will get worse.
He said the possible impacts could include:
- An increase to school fees from 1 January 2018, with fees increasing by approximately $3,000 per student per year by 2027.
- An inability to enhance dedicated programs for children with special needs.
- No building improvements or expansion of school programs.
“As Parents and Carers in our Catholic school communities we believe that we need to unite to advocate against the Government’s new funding arrangements,” Mr Fox wrote.
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham disputed the Catholic Education Office’s figures and claims, saying they are “misleading and fundamentally flawed”.
“I can reassure all parents in the ACT that funding for Catholic schools from the Turnbull Government will increase by $2 million over the next four years,” Mr Birmingham said.
“Nationally funding for Catholic schools increases by $1.2 billion over the next four years.
“Our Gonski plan will treat students fairly and equitably across the country, with school funding calculated purely on need and regardless of historical deals, political influence or faith,” he said.
“Why should taxpayer support for a school be more just because it is part of the Catholic school system rather than a low fee independent school? A school that has the same children, from the same families in the same location deserves the same level of funding.”
What do you think about this issue? Are Canberra’s Catholic schools being treated unfairly? Let us know in the comments below.