The Commonwealth Government remains committed to the direct funding of non-government schools, despite plans to hand funding and control of government schools back the the states.
Speaking at the Christian Schools National Policy Forum (May 26, 2014), Education Minister Christopher Pyne indicated that the Federal Government will reject the recommendations of the National Commission of Audit regarding the control of non-government school funding.
A recommendation of the NCOA was that the commonwealth should transfer to the States three 'pools' of funding – for State-run, Catholic and Independent schools – for administration by States and Territory Governments.
While the Federal Budget made clear the Abbott Government's plans to hand state education and health expenditure back to the States, the Minister has however given a clear signal that the Government intends an ongoing, direct relationship with Christian and other non-government schools.
In answer to a question at the Christian Schools National Policy Forum Dinner, in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Minister Pyne said he was "not attracted" to the model suggested by the NCOA.
Mr Pyne said this was consistent with the direct funding approach first adopted by the Menzies Government.
"I want to have a direct relationship with the non-government sector, as I believe we have had since 1963. That is my intention.
"Having talked to the Prime Minister about this matter many times, it is his view that we have a particular responsibility for Non-Government schooling that we don’t have for [State] Government schooling.
"I can't see those circumstances changing. You can rest easy on that," Mr Pyne said, a remark which brought spontaneous applause.
The Minister also hinted at possible action by the Federal Government to maintain its direct relationship with non-government schools, whatever the outcomes of the current High Court challenge to chaplaincy funding (which potentially threatens direct C'wealth funding).
"The emotional commitment within the Federal Government is to continue to have a direct relationship with the non-government schools sector. I think the States and Territories would prefer that as well," Mr Pyne said.
Christian Schools Australia strongly endorses the Minister's commitment to direct federal funding. We raised this issue with the Minister because of our concern that State Governments have a conflict of interest, if asked to distribute funds for non-state schools.
The relationship with the Commonwealth is important, grounded in history, and appreciated. It recognises the importance of choice in schooling and particularly the freedom to choose a faith-based school.
Further resources: Audio file below includes the Minister's full response to a question (from Stephen O'Doherty) at the Christian Schools National Policy Forum, 26 May 2014.
For the full address and answer to other questions, click here