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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 2059..


Non-government schools-interest subsidy scheme

MR PRATT

(7.32): I move the notice standing in my name on the notice paper, which reads:

That the Assembly:

(1) calls on the Government to reverse the decision to remove the Interest Subsidy Scheme Commitment to non-government schools as it will have a severe impact on those schools and the 39.2% of students who subscribe to them; and

(2) notes with concern, the added pressure that will be placed on government schools and the ACT education system as a whole due to the 'knock on effect' that the removal of the scheme will have.

I rise to express concern about the government's decision on this particular scheme. The interest subsidy scheme has existed for a number of years. It facilitates the development of the much needed infrastructure for non-government schools that enables them to remain competitive within the ACT system.

The interest subsidy scheme, or ISS, has been the only form of direct capital support provided by the ACT government to the non-government school system in the ACT. While the minister seems to think that the ACT government is only a government for government schools, the hard statistics cannot be denied. Mr Speaker, 40 per cent of school children in the ACT attend a non-government school. That's almost the same percentage of people who voted this government into power.

These kids come from all sorts of socioeconomic backgrounds and their parents have many differing reasons for sending their children for schooling through the non-government sector. These students deserve to be looked after by this government as well. There have been very few new initiatives by this Labor government to help this growing sector cope with its increasing enrolments. Instead, the government has chosen to abolish support mechanisms put in place for this very reason by previous governments.

Mr Speaker, the ACT Liberals believe that it is important that the Canberrans we represent are provided with choice and diversity in their kids' education. This includes the fostering of a rich government system, as well as the support of a dynamic non-government system. This is a principle which is supported by the ministerial council's agreed framework of principles for funding schools, which states:

Public funding for schooling supports the right of families to choose non-government schooling and supports non-government schools on the basis of need, within the context of promoting a socially and culturally cohesive society and the effective use of public funds.

Mr Speaker, the removal of the interest subsidy scheme leaves an air of uncertainty in non-government schools. Many of these schools are already finding it hard to keep up with the demand that is being placed on them to keep their fees down as much as possible while retaining a high standard of education.


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