Noel Towell June 16, 2012
Canberra's private school lobby group wants the ACT government to boost its funding to non-government education in the city by more than 43 per cent.
A Legislative Assembly committee was told yesterday that children in private schools should get funded at the rate of 25 per cent of that of their counterparts in public education, a move that would cost more than $23 million a year.
But the government received the proposal coolly, arguing that it already provided what it believed was generous funding to the non-government education sector which was also supported by federal government funding.
ACT Association of Independent Schools executive director Andrew Wrigley told the Assembly's Budget Estimates Committee yesterday that ACT taxpayers were contributing less than those in most other states and territories to the education of children in private schools.
Mr Wrigley told the multi-party committee that his organisation, which represents 17 schools including some of the city's most exclusive academies, wanted to see the funding for each of their pupils boosted over a number of years from its present level of about 17.5 per cent of the funding allocated to a public student.
The executive director said his group had expressed three key concerns in its budget submission: recurrent funding, capital investment and funding for disabled students.
''Little or no attempt has been made to respond to the areas of main focus as outlined in our submission,'' Mr Wrigley told the committee. ''It's important to note the savings that territory taxpayers enjoy, that's you and I, from the nearly 41 per cent of students who attend non-government schools.
''Figures from the productivity commission's 2012 Report on Government Services indicates that ACT non-government schools received the third lowest funding of any jurisdiction of state and territory governments.''
Education Minister Chris Bourke defended his government's record in supporting Canberra's independent schools.
''The ACT government has continued to increase recurrent funding to our Catholic and independent schools from $30.7 million in 2001-02 to over $55.3 million in our latest budget,'' he said. ''This is an increase of around 80 per cent. In this budget alone we've seen an increase of 10.8 per cent over the previous year - far beyond CPI.''
Dr Bourke said the territory's spending in the sector was growing while the federal government's was shrinking.
''Compare this to the Commonwealth who have actually cut funding initiatives for non-government schools like the now-cancelled Digital Education Revolution initiative - worth $1.8 million per annum to Canberra non-government schools,'' he said.
Dr Bourke also pointed to $2 million one-off boost for disability services in non-government schools in this year's budget and government grants of free land to the private school sector.