Independent schools demand federal government withdraws threat and guarantees ‘vital’ funding

Christian Schools Australia (CSA) has demanded the federal government withdraw a threat to independent schools and instead commit to guarantee funding even if enrollments drop off as a result of Covid-19.

On Thursday the education minister, Dan Tehan, wrote to all independent school associations ordering them to provide in-person education to children from term two or risk losing their federal funding.

Federal funding for non-government schools are based on enrollments at a census date, usually in August, but CSA wants funding to be guaranteed at the level of student enrollment at the start of term one.

Throughout March the Morrison government opposed school closures on the basis of medical advice, but the issue was forced by Victoria bringing forward its school holidays and other states introducing pupil-free days, resulting in higher rates of parents keeping their children home and in some cases withdrawing them from independent schools.

Independent schools, like universities, were excluded from lower threshold of 15% revenue decrease to qualify for job-seeker extended to other charities. Instead, they must show a 30% revenue reduction.

At national cabinet on Thursday federal, state and territory leaders discussed how to develop a consistent national approach to which students should attend schools after the Easter holidays although no decisions were made.

Tehan defended his direction to independent schools, telling ABC TV that some “weren’t offering, for parents that had to work at all year levels, that opportunity for those students to be able to get that safe learning environment”.

On Sunday Tehan said the federal government “wants all schools open”.

He noted states and territories had “put in place different arrangements” contrasting the Northern Territory, where students are required to attend school in person in term two, with Victoria and New South Wales which “are encouraging parents to, if they can, to have their students study at home”.

On Sunday Tehan announced a support package for the university sector, promising their $18bn commonwealth grants scheme funding for 2020 will be paid even if enrollments fall.

Universities Australia, which along with Labor have called for a more generous support package, welcomed the package as a good first step but warned it would not be enough to stop an estimated 21,000 job losses in the sector.


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