School funding across the North Sydney electorate

  • June 1, 2017

I am proud to represent in this Parliament some 40 government and non-government schools.

Since my election 18 months ago I have had the opportunity to see almost all of those schools and I been impressed by the extraordinary role they play in the education of their students.

I particularly acknowledge the role of our local principals and teachers.  As the son of a primary school teacher and headmaster, I know the care and passion those in the teaching profession bring to their calling.

Those schools represent the full mix our educational sector.   North Sydney is home to 22 government, 11 independent and seven systemic Catholic schools.

All of those schools have my strong support.

I firmly believe in parental choice and with our mix of government and non-government schools, local families have the opportunity to choose an education that best meets their aspirations and the needs of their children.

That’s why I have welcomed the federal budget delivered by the Turnbull government three weeks ago and its commitment to ensuring every student, in every school receives Commonwealth support on a model that ensures fairness and transparency.

These are important reforms and, backed by an additional $18.6 billion in funding over ten years, provide the opportunity to ensure the needs-based model envisaged by David Gonksi in his important 2011 report.

For the vast majority of schools in my electorate, our reforms will see increased funding delivered.

For public schools, funding will grow by almost 60 per cent over the next 10 years.  For Catholic schools, funding will increase by 43 per cent.

I do want to acknowledge that some of my local schools will see a decline in funding as we move to the needs-based model.

Three, St Aloysius, Monte Sant’ Angelo and Loreto Kirribilli will see the most significant reductions.

I want to thank the principals of those schools for the responsible way in which they are planning for the new funding arrangements.

The principal of Monte Sant’ Angelo, Nicole Christensen, wrote to her parents saying, that:

“As the schools funding model was due to expire in 2017, this announcement has not come as a surprise and is something the College Board and I have been strategically preparing for.”

She went on to write:

“In the Mercy tradition of justice and human dignity, I believe that every student is deserving of a quality education and that these reforms are necessary to provide a fair, just and transparent system.”

The principal of St Ignatius College (Riverview), Dr Paul Hine, wrote in similar terms to his parents:

“While a loss of revenue for any organisation can be disappointing, the College believes that the needs-based adjustment is fair and equitable, as it will enable those schools with a very limited resource base to have a greater financial capacity and an expanded resources base into the future.”

I also know that some parents at Catholic systemic schools in my electorate have been advised fees could rise as a result of the new model.

I want to reiterate that funding allocated to the Catholic Education Commission, based on the profile of those schools, will increase by 43 per cent in my electorate over the coming ten years.

Over the next four years funding will grow by 3.8 per cent per annum for all Catholic schools in NSW.  Nationally, an additional $1.2 billion will be provided to Catholic schools over the next four years.

Funding for systemic schools will continue to be provided as block grants and the government has made very clear that Catholic education authorities will remain able to allocate those funds as they believe is best for their school systems.

So in circumstances where funding is increasing for schools, including Catholic schools in NSW, there should be no need for fees to increase.

Put simply, if funding is going up why would fees need to?

I am confident our Gonski 2.0 model will see a stronger education system better able to equip young Australians, including those living in my electorate, with the education they need.

In the face of these reforms it has been instructive to watch the approach of those who sit opposite representing the Australian Labor Party.

It has just been extraordinary to watch the Labor Party – which has so long proclaimed a commitment to needs-based funding based on Gonski– argue against reforms which deliver that outcome.

Perhaps its because they are embarrassed about their own actions in government.  Labor’s system manifestly did not fulfil the ideals of Gonski to provide a national needs-based system.

Instead we inherited a patchwork of arrangements that not only treated students differently but actually penalised state and territory governments that increased their own funding.

What we have also seen since the budget has been an attempt by the Leader of the Opposition and the Member for Sydney to mislead and scare parents.

That scare campaign has seen claims funding is being cut – when quite clearly the reverse is true to the tune of $18.6 billion.

The lengths to which the Opposition will resort was on display earlier this week when the Member for Sydney claimed more schools in the Catholic sector were being disadvantaged than actually exist.

Mr Speaker – these are important reforms for the future of our education system and I would urge those opposite to live up to the commitment they have long mouthed for a truly national, transparent system based on needs.