Catholic schools call for equity in funding for disabled students
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Catholic schools call for equity in funding for disabled students

The number of students with a disability attending Catholic schools in the ACT has increased 83 per cent since 2006 yet the sector receives no ACT government funding under the Schools for All review.

Tyler Mullan, Abi McIntyre, Ike Goddard and Erin Kemp are among 18,000 ACT Catholic students

Tyler Mullan, Abi McIntyre, Ike Goddard and Erin Kemp are among 18,000 ACT Catholic students

Photo: Graham Tidy

In the lead-up to the ACT election, the peak community bodies representing the sector, the Catholic Education Commission and Catholic School Parents, have joined forces, asking candidates to commit to equity funding, saying a student with a disability should receive the same amount of funding regardless of the school they attend.

The sector is required to fund programs for disabled students through their recurrent funding which is well below that of government schools.

Catholic schools in the ACT receive for each student, on average, 60 per cent of the government funding that government schools receive for each of their students. A child in an ACT government school receives $14,447 of combined commonwealth and territory funding, where a child in a Catholic school receives only $9716, according to data from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority on the My School website.

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Catholic Education Office director Moira Najdecki said the response to the Schools for All review was a great example of collaboration for the common good of Canberra families .

"Yet one in four children in Canberra are educated in one of the 32 ACT Catholic schools," Ms Najdecki said.

"Parents have the right, and in Canberra great opportunity, to choose where and how their children are educated."

She acknowledged there was an increase in the per student dollar amount in 2016, where non-government schools received 7 per cent more compared to 3 per cent for government schools.

"But a 7 per cent increase from a very low baseline will never come within a cooee of 3 per cent added to the highest per student level of funding in Australia. Surely, Canberra students deserve equitable resourcing levels?"

Catholic schools are also calling on candidates to commit to provision of land in new growth areas.

"To date, Catholic education has not been able to secure any information or assurances about how and when land will be made available for non-government schools in greenfields sites such as Molonglo," Ms Najdecki said.

"Sensible planning for future provision of land for schools is essential if parents in new areas are to be given choice in education."

The CEO said that government figures suggest that by 2021 the number of school-aged children in Molonglo will be 5600, which means on a pro-rata basis 1570 places will be required in Catholic schools.

"Families in Molonglo have the right to access Catholic schools in their neighbourhood," Ms Najdecki said.

Catholic Education will be holding a series of community Meet the Candidate meetings in the lead-up to the election.

Kurrajong electorate: Merici College, Braddon, 7pm, September 5; Brindabella electorate: St Francis of Assisi, Calwell, 7pm, September 7; Murrumbidgee electorate: Marist College Junior School, Pearce, 7pm, September 8; Yerrabi electorate: Good Shepherd, Amaroo, 7pm, September 12; Ginninderra electorate: St Francis Xavier College, 7pm, September 14.

Karen Hardy

Karen Hardy is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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