THE executive director of the Queensland Catholic Education Commission has taken aim at critics as the battle over school funding heats up.
Dr Lee-Anne Perry has defended the record of Catholic schools against critics she describes as “powerful state school lobbyists challenging the very existence of Catholic schools”.
“We’re concerned that some people are choosing to put a sectarian spin on this – basically that Catholic schools shouldn’t exist and therefore they shouldn’t get any funding,” Dr Perry said.
“Commentators intent on grabbing a headline do a great disservice to the young people whose education is the responsibility of our whole community.”
Dr Perry’s remarks come as the Federal and State Governments negotiate a school funding model that would begin in 2018 and replace Labor’s Gonski agreements.
The Australian Education Union is a key player in funding discussions and has enlisted the support of a number of high-profile and outspoken public school advocates.
They have called for a freeze on funding increases to non-government schools – which includes Catholic schools.
Dr Perry said critics had wrongly tried to paint a picture of Catholic schools as “elite, exclusionist and non-inclusive.”
“We obviously believe in the place, the value and the contribution of Catholic schools and we also believe that governments should give a contribution to every student in a school,” Dr Perry said.
While supporting a “needs-based model”, Dr Perry said: “We believe in a diversity of schooling. Catholic schools are important and valuable.”
“By all means let’s have a discussion about how to make that happen but let’s have it in a way that puts the educational needs of our children and their future at the centre of the debate,” she said.
The Catholic sector in Queensland educates almost 147,000 students in 300 schools.
“They are students from all socioeconomic backgrounds, from all cultural and linguistic backgrounds and they come from communities right around the state from the Gold Coast to Thursday Island and west to Mt Isa and Quilpie,” Dr Perry said.
On average Catholic schools in Queensland in 2016 received, from all governments, 83 per cent of the funding per student that state schools received.
Dr Perry has urged parents of students to ensure their local members understand the importance of the Catholic school sector.
Story by Mark Bowling