Needs based funding in local schools

08 September 2017

Ms McBRIDE (Dobell) (19:50): Needs based funding is making a difference in classrooms across the Central Coast: extra teachers, Indigenous classes, coding, robotics, instructional leadership, speech pathology and extra teacher aides. This needs based funding is a direct result of the former Labor government's landmark review into school funding. This success is now at risk due to the government's funding cuts. The school funding package in the budget cuts close to $23 billion from schools across the countryan average of $2.4 million per school. Critically, it walks away from targets in the current act to lift high school and cert II and III attainment rates. In a region where only one in two students finishes high school, this matters. The official youth unemployment rate on the Central Coast remains stubbornly high at 16.6 per cent. For too many young people and families, living and working on the Central Coast is increasingly out of reach. Labor knows that education transforms lives. If young people on the coast are to have better futures, we must fight these cuts. A quality education means every young person on the Central Coast and across Australia has the opportunity to reach their potential.

Needs based funding is about fairness. Labor's plan looked beyond state and territory borders and sectors to the resources needed to properly fund schools. Labor committed to funding two-thirds of the extra funding needed and, importantly, made sure the states also boosted their funding by one third. We cannot and should not allow cost-shifting to threaten the quality of education in Australian schools. But that is what is happening: the government wants to walk away from the Schooling Resource Standard.

The secretary of the Department of Education in New South Wales, Mark Scott, has pointed out the $1.8 billion funding shortfall in New South Wales and warned principals that the government's figures do not stack up and cannot be relied on. Under this flawed plan, 85 per cent of public schools will not have reached their fair funding level by 2027. Students who are yet to start high school will have left school without seeing this target reached. Under this model, less than 50 per cent of extra funding goes to public schools, in contrast to 80 per cent of extra funding under Labor.

I am deeply concerned that the government's funding model penalises Catholic schools on the Central Coast in my electorate. My parents chose Catholic schools for me, my five brothers and my sister. Growing up on the Coast, I attended St Cecilia's Primary School in Wyong, and Mater Dei and Corpus Christi Colleges, which is now St Peter's Catholic College in Tuggerah, which my colleague the member for Scullin had the pleasure of visiting recently. I have received hundreds of letters from families who have been let down by these changes. One concerned parent wrote to me and said:

We have had three children that have attended the local Catholic School at MacKillop, a K-12 school and currently still have a daughter in Year 9. The financial cost is a severe strain on our house already and any increase of fees could cause my daughter to have to leave a school she has attended since she was 5 years old.

Another said:

Some teachers in our small system of Broken Bay Diocese schools are at risk of losing their jobs. Will this really improve students' learning.

Local schools should not have to choose between increasing fees or cutting teachers. The government announced these changes without talking to Catholic schools. Worse, when schools spoke up, they were shouted down.

Catholic schools teach around 20 per cent of Australia's school children. Principals and teachers in Catholic schools, and the families, deserve to be treated fairly. The decision to enrol a child in a Catholic school should not be based on a family's household income. In the last four years, the government has chopped and changed its position on school funding, while Labor has remained consistent. This uncertainty on school funding will affect enrolments in many Catholic schools as parents and families cannot be certain about what the school fees will be next year.

This funding model is not fair. This funding model is not sector-blind. This funding model will hurt Central Coast schools. Whichever Central Coast school a child attendspublic, faith based or independentLabor believes every child in every classroom deserves every opportunity. Education changes lives and funding matters.