Private schools may be forced to disclose finances

by Brett Henebery17 Mar 2015

New laws may soon force private schools to give the Government detailed reports on how their funding is used.

VIC Education Minister, James Merlino, said details of the proposed changes will be revealed in a ministerial order, to be drafted after consultation with independent and Catholic schools.

Documents tabled in State Parliament revealed that the new laws ‘will empower the minister to place any reasonable conditions on funding provided’ and ‘allow the minister to require a non-government school and/or its organising body to provide a report as to the application of funding’.

However, some leading voices in independent education argue that they are already accountable, warning the Government that the new laws could adversely impact students.

Stephen Elder, executive director of the Catholic Education Office (CEO), said the Government’s plan would only add to the problem of already-strained resources.

"Existing arrangements already shift significant resources from classrooms to accountants and auditors, thereby undermining the primary purpose of schools to teach students,” Elder said.

“The Victorian government should be considering how to reduce this problem – not increase it."

The push for greater funding accountability comes at a sensitive time for the VIC Government, which is facing stiff opposition over school resourcing from its traditional ally: the public education lobby.

Tensions spiked in February when Labor and the Coalition joined forces to pass legislation guaranteeing that private schools would get at least 25% of the funds allocated to public schools.

Education Minister Merlino defended the laws, saying that 37% of students now attend private schools, and that the changes merely “formalised existing administrative arrangements”.