Double whammy as school cuts hit twice

REDUCED education spending by state governments in recent years will cost private schools about $150 million in federal funding this year, a figure that will worsen once the latest funding freeze by the O'Farrell government is taken into account.

Figures obtained by the Herald show the growth in federal funding for schools will fall by 2 percentage points this year because it is tied to the rate of state funding which has declined by that amount.

This fall does not factor in the O'Farrell government's decision to cut 1800 jobs and freeze private school funding for four years to save $1.7 billion.

The NSW Public Service Association said yesterday the latest job losses threatened to close a unit that provides professional development and training for all staff and also threatened the future of events such as the Schools Spectacular concert and the HSC Art Express exhibition, which showcase public school talent.

''The jobs of 1800 people have gone, but the work of those people hasn't,'' the Association's president, Sue Walsh, said. ''Teachers will have to carry more of the workload, without any extra time and resources.''

Catholic schools say the future of the national curriculum is also at risk, as is their ability to build new schools to accommodate growing enrolments.

Under the present system, funding for schools is indexed to cover the growth in costs each year. If a state increases its funding by 6 per cent, then federal funding for schools is lifted by the same percentage. For the past 10 years, this indexation rate has averaged 6 per cent. It was 5.9 per cent last year.

But reduced spending by state and territory governments in recent years will see this rate drop 2 percentage points to 3.9 per cent for this year. As a result, Commonwealth funding for state and private schools for 2012 will rise by just 3.9 per cent, a fall of $150 million for the private school sector from last year.

A government source said once the cuts by the O'Farrell government, as well as those in Queensland and Victoria, are taken into account, Commonwealth spending for state and private schools will fall even further. All schools in all states would be affected.

The four-year funding freeze by the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, has blunted the opposition's claims that the federal Labor government was hostile towards independent and Catholic schools. It has infuriated federal Liberal MPs who believe it to be an assault on the Liberal heartland and they are being inundated with complaints.

In question time yesterday, Labor accused the Liberals of increasing expenses for parents.

A Department of Education spokesman said there were no plans to discontinue the Schools Spectacular or Art Express.

He said professional learning and curriculum support would continue to be priorities after the department was restructured.

Dan White, the executive director of Catholic Schools in the archdiocese of Sydney, said his group of 148 schools would lose $15 million over four years as a result of the freeze in funding for non-government schools.

''That equates to approximately $225 per student in Catholic systemic schools,'' he said.

''There is a risk of small increases in fees but in our system we want to keep that to a minimum,'' he said. ''More significantly it will lead to cutbacks in support staff that assist our most marginalised and disadvantaged students.''

Dr White said he would have to rethink plans to spend $300,000 to implement the new national curriculum from next year and build four new schools.

Stephen O'Doherty, the chief executive of Christian Schools Australia, said the four-year funding freeze for non-government schools took no account of inflation or future enrolment growth. ''There's no doubt that down the track it will feed into fee increases [and] it will put teacher salary increases under threat,'' he said.

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