UNCERTAIN TIMES: Toowoomba Catholic Schools Executive Director Patrick Coughlan said the Federal Govenment's school funding shake-up came without consultation.
UNCERTAIN TIMES: Toowoomba Catholic Schools Executive Director Patrick Coughlan said the Federal Govenment's school funding shake-up came without consultation. Julia Baker

Catholic schools still coming to grips with funding shake-up

CATHOLIC schools in the Toowoomba diocese are still coming to grips with how the Federal Government's education funding shake-up will affect them but say they could be among the hardest hit by the changes.

Executive Director of Toowoomba Catholic Schools Patrick Coughlan said the majority of Catholic Schools are not a part of Australia's high-end, elite private schools but could be set to have their funding cut significantly.

Toowoomba Catholic Schools has 31 schools in their diocese, including in Chinchilla, Dalby, Roma, St George, Mitchell and Charleville.

Under the Government's proposed new funding model, schools currently receiving over 80% of their schooling resource standard (SRS) from the Federal Government will have their funding decreased.

The Government has announced that around 350 schools will receive less federal funding by the end of the decade than they would have under current funding arrangements.

Mr Coughlan said Toowoomba Catholic Schools had received little information since the Federal Government announced major changes to school funding earlier this week, but will have a better picture of how the changes will affect them after receiving more details later today.

Toowoomba Catholic Schools are 100% in support of needs based funding, Mr Coughlan said.

"It has a large impact of course, almost all of our funding for Catholic schools comes through the Federal Government and a smaller amount comes from State Government and then an amount comes from fees, but by far the biggest contributor is the Federal Government. So we're very attune and very alert to changes to funding arrangements,” Mr Coughlan said.

"The thing we are a little disappointed about this time is that the announcement was made on Tuesday night and we had no contact... no consultation, no connection had been made with Catholic schools across Australia.”

"Whether that's strategic or not, it's the way the Government has decided to operate so there is not much we can do about it. But the thing that we would be very keen to stress is that there is reference made to high-end schools that receive government funding. Most of us, not all of us, would agree that those high-end schools that have access to huge sources of money should not not necessarily qualify for large government funds. Most Catholic schools are not high-end, there are some, but the majority are not.”

Toowoomba Catholic Schools are yet to place a monetary figure on how the shake-up will affect them but said they may have to increase fees to make-up for any losses in funding.

Mr Coughlan said the Government's plan could have a major impact on remote and rural schools, which are already doing it tough in the face of post-boom economic times.

"It is a challenge, once employment dries up in these towns, families move, which takes students out of schools and so a declining enrolment base means schools become more and more marginal financially,” he said.

"We really recognise what a school adds to a community and of course, the community gives to the school, so we will always try to keep schools open and viable. It really would be a shame if these funding changes meant schools weren't viable or impacted on enrolments.”


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