School fund cuts feared
CATHOLIC schools in the Clarence Valley are preparing themselves for a $2.5 million local cut in State Government funding, which they expect to be announced next week.
Principal of Grafton's McAuley Catholic College Leon Walsh said the cuts were part of a $24.5 million projected cut to the church's schools statewide.
He said cuts of this magnitude will mean fees increases of about 12% and staff cuts.
Mr Walsh said it was too early to predict how many staff could go locally, but projected there could be 20 positions lost across the diocese.
He said the school was already contracting as the impact of the job losses in the region, due to the Telstra Call Centre and abattoir closures and the downsizing of the jail, started to bite.
Yesterday a spokesperson for Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said advice from the Education Minister Adrian Piccoli's office was no decision had been made about savings in the education portfolio.
Mr Gulaptis was travelling back from Sydney and was not available for comment.
Diocese of Lismore, Catholic Schools Office director David Condon said he had received his information about the cuts from the Catholic Education Commission.
"We believe our sources are reliable and the Government is going to announce these cuts next week," Mr Condon said.
Mr Condon said the diocese was distributing information about the projected cuts to all schools and parents.
The unexpected announcement yesterday hit hard at McAuley College, which was celebrating its foundation day and traditions on McAuley Day.
"We were all enjoying a day where we had come dressed in a sporting theme and were having some fun, when we received this news," Mr Walsh said.
Mr Walsh, who was wearing a Collingwood Aussie Rules jumper instead of his usual shirt and tie, was joined at Mr Gulaptis's electoral office in Grafton by Nicholas Lambert from Diocesan Council of Catholic School Parents, to protest the decision.
Mr Lambert was worried many parents would not be able to afford the fee hike and services at the school would be diluted.
"Catholic schools are not high fee-paying schools," he said.
"Fees are generally between $1800 and $2000 a year, not the $20,000-plus at private schools," he said.
Mr Lambert said the fees charged fill the gap in funding from state and federal sources.