Tehan offers re-opening money
The Federal Government has been accused of bribing schools to reopen by June.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has offered to bring forward $3 billion in funding for independent and religious schools if they get students back in the classroom.
He wants schools to commit to having at least half their students back attending school by June 1 in order to access advance payments of their yearly funding.
“Why we're doing this is because Catholic and independent schools approached the Federal Government and said that some schools were experiencing cashflow issues and were asking us to bring forward the July payment we would normally make to them,” the Minister said this week.
Mr Tehan says the offer of $1.6 billion for Catholic schools and $1.4 billion for independent schools will be broken up into two instalments.
“They'll get the first if they commit to have a plan in place to have teachers back in the classroom teaching all year levels by the end of May,” he said.
“And then if they achieve 50 per cent of students at a minimum attending schools at the end of May they'll get the second instalment.”
Schools around the country have switched to pupil-free models, but many remain open for the children of essential services workers. While some states and territories are moving to have students return to public schools, even in states keeping them shut, like Victoria, non-government schools have the option to re-open whenever they choose.
Jim Laussen, the head of a Melbourne-based religious school, said he feels like staff and students are “being bribed into coming back to school”.
“We found out about this last night and I have to make a decision by Friday,” he told reporters.
“Before that, I have to consult with my leadership team, my board, I need to talk to my staff and see how they feel about coming back on June 1, whether they feel safe enough.”
Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said the federal offer is “completely inappropriate”.
“Expert health advice, not money, should determine whether nor not a school fully opens,” he said.
Federal Opposition education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said “there are many unknowns” about the proposal.
“For example, will some of this funding advance go towards helping casual teachers who've been abandoned by the Federal Government so far?” she asked.
“Everyone wants schools to go back as soon as it's safe for students and staff.”