Ararat and Stawell Catholic schools hope that moves to renegotiate 'Gonski 2.0' will help their budgets

NO DEAL: Ararat's St Mary's Parish Primary School is concerned that Catholic schools will be worse off under a federal funding deal. Picture: PETER PICKERING.
NO DEAL: Ararat's St Mary's Parish Primary School is concerned that Catholic schools will be worse off under a federal funding deal. Picture: PETER PICKERING.

ARARAT and Stawell Catholic schools hope to gain more funding as federal school reforms hit a roadblock.

Retiring West Australian Liberal Senator Chris Back has threatened to vote against the Quality Schools funding package.

Senator Back said he was concerned that the plan to move all schools to a simpler funding model would disadvantage Catholic institutions.

At the time of publication, the government was four votes short of passing the reforms, nicknamed ‘Gonksi 2.0’ after a proposal under former prime minister Julia Gillard.

At Stawell’s St Patrick’s Primary School, director of Catholic education Audrey Brown joined other schools last month in using their newsletter to urge the community to oppose the funding model.

“We welcome and offer support to all families who desire an education in which we ‘strive for the greater gifts’. That is not something that we want to lose.” she stated. 

St Patrick’s Primary School principal Elizabeth McIntyre was not available for comment before deadline.

Ararat St Mary’s Primary School principal Tom Hogan said he hoped negotiations with independent senators would deliver a better deal.

“We don’t want to see kids disadvantaged for attending a Catholic school,” he said.

“The proposals are not considering the needs of children in Catholic schools and would have an impact on funding.

“We don’t want to charge extensive fees for children to attend our school.”

Mr Hogan said the biggest impact would be in the long term.

A special government website set up to explain the reforms has stated St Mary’s, along with most Catholic schools in western Victoria, would be better off.

Mr Hogan said he had been given different figures.

“I think that information has been tweaked a little bit to make it look that way,” he said.

“There is quite a bit of difference in the money going towards students with a disability and special needs.”

Ararat Marian College principal Carmel Barker said she was also concerned about funding for children with a disability.

“As far as we are concerned we will keep our fees low and support people who cannot afford to come here but really want their children to go to a Catholic school,” she said.

“There are lots of different versions going around and I don’t think any school is quite clear on what it will mean.”

Member for Wannon Dan Tehan and Member for Mallee Andrew Broad voted for the reforms in the lower house last month.

Labor Member for Lalor Joanne Ryan claimed that students in the Mallee electorate would lose $1800 per head and Wannon students would lose $1600.

Greens members and senators held a meeting on Tuesday to discuss whether to support the funding model but a final decision was expected on Wednesday.

The government offered to increase the amount of money involved and appoint and independent body to oversee distribution to schools.

Coalition members are coming under increased pressure from their Catholic constituents following claims that Victorian parish schools will be $280 worse off.