Catholic Education Office Sandhurst director Paul Desmond says schools contacted by government about incorrect School Funding Estimator figures

THE director of the Catholic Education Office Sandhurst has rubbished school funding estimates for 2017-2018, suggesting the Federal government ‘inadvertently’ misled schools with their publicly available funding calculator.

In a letter sent to the Border Mail, director Paul Desmond said the government was contacting schools to tell them their estimates were wrong.

“At the heart of media reports has been evidence provided to the public via the Australian government's School Funding Estimator,” his letter read.

“This online resource has been a shambles for the government since its release.

“The government has provided all schools with an estimate of their school funding in 2017, yet the very day the estimator went live we understand schools were being contacted by the government to tell them that their estimates are wrong.

“As the estimates of 2017 funding are wrong, the Australian government is acknowledging it has inadvertently misled schools, and the public, on funding increases schools might expect under the new model from 2017 to 2018.”

When contacted, Mr Desmond said word of individual schools being contacted by government officials had come from national Catholic education bodies.

“The Catholic Education Commission of Victoria has said it was told by national Catholic education authorities of schools contacted by the government to tell them their estimates were wrong,” Mr Desmond said.

Doubts about the level of funding Catholic schools will receive is yet to be resolved, with the Catholic sector arguing the move from a system-weighted approach to a model where fees will be set for individual schools is inappropriate. 

Mr Desmond said a school's socioeconomic status score (SES) would become more important in determining schools funding.

“SES scores will be more important in determining school funding under Quality Schools, despite Gonski finding they were problematic and should be reviewed,” he said.

“These flawed SES scores estimate many Catholic parish primary schools should be able to raise over $7000 per student per year, despite there being no evidence they could charge this level of fees.”

Mr Desmond also said doubts had been raised about the figures being used to debate the proposals.

“The secretary of the NSW department of education, Mark Scott, went so far as to say in a memo to principals last week, ‘I am aware that the commonwealth education minister has written to you with an estimate of the funding increases...you should not rely on these figures for future planning.'”