Low fee Catholic schools carry their weight

Today’s report in the Daily Telegraph, (‘Poor’ Church has pocketed millions, Catholic and elite schools bank huge surpluses), highlights a fundamental misunderstanding about how low-fee Catholic systemic school systems apportion ‘surplus funds’ to their schools.

The article notes that the ‘retained earnings’ of low-fee Catholic schools across Sydney in 2015 was $184 million. However, the article fails to mention that this amount is spread across 269 Catholic schools representing an average surplus of less than $690,000 per school, compared with the surpluses of high-fee independent schools in the order of many millions of dollars.

Dr Dan White, Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools, expressed his concern about comparing low-fee Catholic parish schools with elite private schools.

“Unlike the investment of surplus funds in a range of school facilities in private schools, low fee Catholic systemic schools use surplus funds to maintain existing school buildings and to work collaboratively as a system to buy property and build new schools in the growth areas of Sydney,” Dr White said.

Since 2015, Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) has opened four new schools at Austral, Mortlake, North Strathfield, and Sydney’s first Catholic secondary school for students with special needs at Lewisham.  Similarly, the Parramatta Diocese has opened schools at Box Hill and Marsden Park, and the Wollongong Diocese is building a new school at Edmondson Park.

“In partnership with the State Government, Catholic systemic schools are prepared to take on our share of the heavy lifting to meet the demands of Sydney’s growing student population in particular in the rapidly expanding southwest growth corridor of Sydney,” Dr White said.

“As a system of low-fee schools, we are committed to providing access to quality Catholic education for all families regardless of their postcode and financial need.

“SCS has responsibility for 152 low-fee systemic schools. While we are grateful for any funding received from government for capital expenditure, it is very small, and the rest of the cost has to be met by the Dioceses – that is what surplus funds are used for. We do not make so-called ‘surplus profits’. Any surplus made is set aside for the development costs of building new schools.

“By the prudent management of education funds from both parents and the government, Catholic schools are saving the State Government the cost of building about 20% of the 7200 classrooms Sydney needs over the next 15 years.

 “We are not ‘pocketing millions’ but are investing in the future of our children,” Dr White added.

Media Contact:
Bernadette Bain (02) 9568 8223

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