Funding cuts condemned

LAST week the NSW government announced plans to slash recurrent funding to non-government schools by $67 million a year from 2013.

The Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta fears higher fee pressures on struggling families or staff and curriculum reductions — or both.

"We have around 25 per cent of our students on scheme payments," Mark Holyoake, executive manager in the Office of the Executive Director, Greg Whitby, said.

"The last place that we want to cut services is in the classroom."

He said he couldn't rule out fees being increased.

The Catholic diocese makes an allocation of funds per student based on fees it collects and government allocations.

But the state government wants to change the formula that pegs per capita state grants to Catholic and independent schools to 25 per cent of the cost of educating a state school student, which means schools may need to "get creative" with their allocation, Danuta Maka, principal of St Michael's Primary School, Baulkham Hills, said.

She worried she may lose specialist teachers, teacher training opportunities, and funding for learning support for kids with special needs.

With 805 pupils in 29 classes, St Michael's is one of the largest systemic primary schools in the diocese.

Bishop Anthony Fisher said the proposal made no allowance for teacher salary increases or other inflation over the next four years or for increased enrolments. Commonwealth grants could fall further because they are presently linked to state grants, he said.

State MP for Baulkham Hills, David Elliott received more than 200 emails and calls.

"Given my parents sacrificed home ownership to allow me to attend a Christian school I am very passionate and protective of the role the private sector has in providing quality education," he said.

Following representations from Mr Elliott and Castle Hill MP Dominic Perrottet, among others, non-government school funding has been frozen for four years.

Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli said the government had to make some tough decisions to ensure NSW is living within its means and to put the education budget back on a sustainable financial footing.

"The government is receiving $2.5 billion less in revenue each year since we were elected," he said.

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