Education Minister Simon Birmingham. Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch
Education Minister Simon Birmingham. Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch

Move to base school fees on tax returns

THE Turnbull Government will consider using the tax returns of parents to determine how much they can afford to pay to send their kids to Catholic and private schools.

The massive shake-up, which could be revealed as early as June, is expected to help neutralise the political war waged by the Catholic school sector against the Government.

It could also pave the way for the Government to offer extra money to independent schools but it is unlikely to be near the $250 million extra over two years offered to Catholic schools by Bill Shorten if he wins the next election.

The Government has already gifted Catholic schools an eye-watering $3.9 billion extra over the next decade - an extra 3.7 per cent extra for each child a year. The Government provides the money to state Catholic commissions, which distributes the cash to their schools as they see fit.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham. Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch
Education Minister Simon Birmingham. Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch

The Courier-Mail understands the Government's new National School Resourcing Board is investigating changing its current method by using tax returns of parents.

It would likely be on a school by school basis, meaning the system would be a more accurate determiner of what parents can afford. It is believed the Government will consider what the board recommends.

The Government asked the independent board to review the data that informs current federal funding arrangements.

Currently, a socio-economic status (SES) score uses the smallest unit of Census data (about 400 people) relating to education, occupation, household income and income of families with children.

That information, linked to student residential address data, determines how much money the Department of Education believes parents should contribute and how much federal taxpayers should.

The Catholic sector argues some poorer parents are not captured by the local SES score because some live out of the local area.

However, the sector is also under fire for bankrolling some of their prestigious schools at the expense of others.

But it hasn't stopped Catholic education dioceses from launching a highly-politically charged and misleading campaign against the Government.

It has accused the Government of cutting funding. Its argument is based on unfunded promises made by former prime minister Julia Gillard in 2012.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham would not be drawn into what the board may recommend.

"I welcome the engagement of Catholic education authorities with the SES review being undertaken by the independent National School Resourcing Board, which Catholic education authorities called for to enhance our funding model that currently delivers a 3.7 per cent per student average annual increase for Catholic schools.

"I am not going to pre-empt or speculate on what their recommendations may be," Senator Birmingham said yesterday.

"The National Catholic Education Commission and the Turnbull Government share the belief that every child deserves some government support for their school education and that parents should have genuine choice in the type of education they wish for their children, with more support for those who most need it.

"Delivering more support for school communities who can least afford to contribute to costs, and thereby making choice available to more families, is a key feature of our needs-based model and is a focus of the current SES review.

"Unlike Labor, we believe funding for schools should be determined by the needs of children within those schools not special deals driven by backroom negotiations.

"We are determined to ensure the needs-based funding model is supported by the most robust data possible to deliver fair levels of support for all school systems, regardless of the background of their administrators."

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