Report Says Wealthy Catholic Schools are Over-Funded

A new research paper published by Save Our Schools (SOS) shows that virtually all high income Catholic combined and secondary schools in Australia are over-funded compared to what they are entitled to according to their socio-economic capacity. SOS National Convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said that the report challenges claims by Catholic education authorities that they re-distribute funds from high income to disadvantaged Catholic schools.

“The report shows that these claims are misleading and untrue in many cases when actual Federal funding figures on My School are analysed.

“The actual Federal funding received by almost all high income Catholic schools is much greater than if they were funded according to what they are entitled to under the Federal Government’s SES funding model. They are what is termed “funding maintained” schools.

“All high SES non-systemic Catholic schools that are funding maintained retain their over-funding. Many receive double or more the funding they would be entitled to if they were funded at their SES funding rate [Table 1].

“High SES systemic Catholic schools in NSW and the ACT also appear to retain all their over-funding. In many cases, the over-funding is also double or more what schools are entitled to [Table 2].

“High SES systemic Catholic schools in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia appear to have part of their over-funding re-distributed but they still retain the large part – about 60% on average; that is, they remain significantly over-funded despite some re-distribution [Tables 3 & 4].”

Mr. Cobbold said that Catholic education authorities should be more transparent about how they distribute Federal block grants to their schools. He said that a 2009 National Audit Office report and the Gonski report on school funding both criticised the lack of transparency on how school systems distribute taxpayer funds to their member schools.

“Catholic education authorities should come clean about their funding formulae. It is not good enough that they get billions of dollars in taxpayer funds and not have to account for how they distribute this funding to member schools.

“The Federal Government should adopt the recommendation of the Gonski report that school systems should disclose how they allocate taxpayer funds to member schools. The recommendation should be written into school funding legislation.”

Mr. Cobbold also said that the Federal Government has to decide what to do about over-funding of private schools now that it has the Goski report on school funding.

“The funding maintained arrangements were strongly criticised by the Gonski report. It estimated over-funding for private schools in 2010 at $615 million, with $492 million paid to Catholic systems and $123 million to Independent schools. It recommended that all private schools on the same SES score should be funded at the same rate to ensure fairness and integrity in school funding.

“The massive over-funding is a barrier to reducing the large achievement gap between rich and poor identified in the Gonski report. It compounds a large resource advantage for high SES schools and it denies much-needed funds to disadvantaged government and private schools.

“The Government should divert this over-funding to better support disadvantaged students and schools. The $615 million a year in over-funding would be a good initial down-payment on the Gonski report’s recommendation for a $5 billion funding increase for disadvantaged government and private schools.”

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