Private school funding cuts fight
LOCAL private school parents have won the support of Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser in their fight against radical and immediate cuts to their NSW government funding.
According to the Diocese of Lismore Catholic Schools Office Director, David Condon, State Government grants for religious and independent schools will be cut by $24.5 million per year, resulting in cuts of $2.5 million for local Catholic schools.
"Catholic schools already operate on less money than both government and independent schools," Mr Condon said.
"With these cuts coming out of the blue, with teaching levels for 2013 already locked in, it will be hard to stop negative impacts on our schools. A $2.5 million cut equates to a loss of 25 full time teaching positions in Catholic parish schools in the Diocese of Lismore."
The President of St Augustines Parents & Friends Association, Stephen Appleton, said he was concerned that the cuts may force some families out of the Catholic education system.
"We strongly believes in the principle that parents should able to send their children to Catholic schools should they choose to do so and therefore that a Catholic education should be affordable for all. Worryingly the proposed cuts challenge the basic principle of fair access to all," Mr Appleton said.
"We are concerned that significant school fee increases may be necessary in 2013."
Following a recent meeting Mr Fraser has written to Premier O'Farrell and Educaton Minister Adrian Piccoli urging them not to go ahead with the prposed cuts.
He said the Coffs Harbour electorate has a number of Christian, Catholic, Anglican and other independent schools which provide an alternative education path not only for children of locals but also for professional people such as doctors, who the community are trying to attract to the electorate.
"Advice to me from the independent schools indicates that if the proposed funding cuts are made they will have to severely restrict their intake of students which will mean those students will have to be absorbed into the public system which are already having trouble catering for current student numbers" Mr Fraser said.
"It will also mean that independent schools will be forced to lay off teachers which will have a dramatic affect on the economies of the towns in the Coffs Harbour electorate.
"If the proposal, as outlined by the independent schools, is correct I believe it is short sighted and has been done without any discussion in the party room.
Mr Condon said the cuts will affect every parish school in the Diocese.
"Many parents in our schools are already struggling to make ends meet, and they make sacrifices to meet their child's educational needs. Regrettably, a cut like this might require schools to raise fees to the amount of 12%, or make other cuts to compensate for the loss of NSW Government grants."