Government unfurls $4.6 billion private schools package, calming Catholic critics

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled a package of $4.6 billion over a decade for non-government schools. AAP/Mick Tsikas

Government unfurls $4.6 billion private schools package, calming Catholic critics

The Morrison government has unveiled a package of $4.6 billion over a decade for non-government schools, to meet the fierce Catholic attack on the Turnbull government’s Gonski-based program.

The announcement by Scott Morrison culminates work for a deal that was undertaken under the Turnbull government and finalised after the change of leadership.

There will be $3.2 billion from 2020 to 2029 for the proposed transition to the new measure for assessing a school’s funding entitlement.

A review commissioned by the government recommended that the present socioeconomic status (SES) measure be replaced by one based on parental income. The government had announced previously that it had accepted this recommendation.

The transition is to commence in 2020, with individual schools able to change in that year or in either of the following two years. Funding for all non-government schools will be calculated on the new basis from 2022.

Also in the package, a new fund will be provided with $1.2 billion over the decade “to support parental choice and diversity, and to support other government priorities for school education such as supporting regional, rural and remote schools and drought affected schools”.

Morrison said this fund would provide a flexible means of targeting extra support to schools requiring it.

This fund replaces a smaller $40 million fund for adjustment assistance.

In addition, there will be $170.8 million for next year only to give funding certainty for schools as preparations are made for the new direct income measure.

The cost over the forward estimates of the whole package will be $1.1 billion.

Morrison said the government “believes that parents should have choice in education.”

But it also remained “committed to the state school system,” he said.

“We are delivering record levels of additional recurrent funding for government schools, growing from $7.3 billion this year to 13.7 billion in 2029.”

Morrison said the National Catholic Education Commission “fully supports the package of measures unveiled today”.

The opposition’s education spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek. said: “After more than a year of denials, today was an admission from the government that they have cut millions of dollars from schools.

"Restoring some of that funding to Catholic and independent schools is a completely inadequate response to the $17 billion cut from schools over the next decade,” she said.