6 June 2016 | Author: Mark Spencer
As part of our ongoing advocacy on behalf of Christian schools each Federal election we seek detailed and specific commitments from the major parties in relation to key issues of concern to Christian schools.
We have written to the ALP and Coalition, the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and the Jacqui Lambie Network, seeking commitments in the following areas:
1. FUNDING FOR STUDENTS WITH A DISABILITY
This remains, despite the work stretching back more than a decade, current funding models still deny students with disability real choice of schooling. This is because funding to meet their needs does not follow the child.
The transition arrangements put in place by the previous Government and the lack of finalisation of this loading in the light of the initial full NCCD data collection in 2015, mean that full equity in funding has not been realised and appears a long way off.
While welcoming the positive statements made by both major parties to address this issue we are calling on them to resolve this inequity as a priority and to ensure that a fully publicly funded loading for students with disabilities is implemented from 2017.
2. PER CAPITA FUNDING
While both parties have already made some policy announcements in relation to future recurrent funding, uncertainties remain at the individual school level. We have made these concerns and their impacts clear to the parties and are seeking commitments to provide the necessary certainty for Christian schools.
3. CAPITAL FUNDING
The capital needs of Christian schools were not addressed in the Gonski funding review nor since that review was completed. While we understand the current budgetary constraints the need to fund the development of new schools is reaching a critical stage as Government projections remain predicated on the non-government sector continuing to grow to meet the demand for additional classrooms.
We are encouraging the parties to investigate innovative, alternative funding approaches to meet these needs.
4. FREEDOM OF CHOICE AND EXPRESSION
No issue is felt more deeply by Christian schools than preserving the right to operate in a way consistent with our religious beliefs. We regard as a basic right in a pluralistic democracy the ability for parents to choose for their children a school which is operated in accordance with their faith.
In practical terms this means that existing protections under Commonwealth and State laws and regulations need to be retained.
We are seeking a reaffirmation of this principle from the parties, particularly in the event that the current definition of marriage was changed.
5. AUTONOMY WITH REASONABLE ACCOUNTABILITY
While education policy maker are championing local autonomy for government schools, locally governed, community based Christian schools are increasingly required to conform to Government policy requirements. A balance must be maintained between meeting national policy objectives and having the freedom and autonomy to meet local needs in unique ways.
We will be looking for commitments that Christian schools will not be overly burdened by accountability measures.
6. NATIONAL CHAPLAINCY AND STUDENT WELFARE PROGRAMME
Member schools and their communities continue to benefit from the School Chaplaincy Programme.
We are seeking an assurance about its continuation beyond 2017 including possible extension into schools that have not participated to date and better support for multi-campus schools.
7. FUNDING FOR DISTANCE EDUCATION STUDENTS
Increasingly schools are using a variety of online mechanisms for the delivery of all or part of the school curriculum. At present distance education students are funded at a fixed, arbitrary level. We are seeking an evidence based review of funding in this area to ensure that funding is aligned to the cost of provision.
Our letters to the major parties also seeks commitments about a greater role for non-government school bodies in educational policy making, reflecting similar calls by others across the sector.
Copies of each of our letters are attached below.
We will continue to provide updates in relation to key issues of concern to Christian schools along with other supporting material over the course of the campaign period. Schools with any questions are encouraged to contact our office at any time.