The National Catholic Education Commission has recently made submissions to the Abbott government’s Federation reform consultation process which was prominent in the media this week, making it clear that it does not support the assigning of full responsibility for school education to the States and Territories.
The NCEC submission raises concerns that any proposed change to responsibility for non-government schooling may unravel a longstanding, effective funding relationship between Catholic schools and the Commonwealth government. This direct Commonwealth funding is valued by the Catholic sector and has provided funding certainty for Catholic schools.
Commonwealth Government funding is critical to Catholic schools – and the entire education system -furthering the objectives of equity and accessibility. Catholic schools also look to governments to ensure that, through an equitable funding system, Catholic schools are able to serve the broad socio-economic spectrum of Australian families. Catholic schools need the support of governments to continue providing a quality education option at reasonable cost for the communities they serve.
Funding from the Commonwealth Government is particularly important to the Catholic sector for two further reasons. First, the Commonwealth provides Catholic schools with the majority of their recurrent government grants. Commonwealth Government funding of Catholic schools also helps mitigate the issues caused by the inherent conflict of interest that state and territory governments have in relation to non-government schools as ‘competing’ education service providers, education regulators and part-funders of non-government schools.
While there may be appeal in streamlining school funding arrangements to have only one level of government determining the distribution of funding between schools and sectors, it is the longstanding view of Catholic education, however, that it is not desirable for state and territory governments to be the sole funders of school education and particularly of non-government schools.