Rudd increases funds for Brethren schools

Sydney, Australia - The Federal Government was criticised yesterday for increasing funding for Exclusive Brethren schools to an estimated $62 million over the next four years.

The Government has chosen to continue with the previous government's controversial funding formula for private schools, which will deliver an additional $24.6 million to the Brethren schools over the next four-year funding cycle, according to budget projections.

Recurrent funding for the M.E.T School in Meadowbank will increase from $16.1 million over four years to an estimated $27 million for the next four-year cycle.

A NSW Greens MP, John Kaye, said the Federal Government would provide $26.2 billion in taxpayer dollars to private schools between 2009 to 2012 ''without questioning the quality of education or the type of behaviours they support''.

''In August 2007 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd referred to the Exclusive Brethren as an extremist cult and sect,'' Dr Kaye said.

''In 2008 his government continued the Howard years funding system, resulting in the Exclusive Brethren schools receiving almost $62 million dollars in recurrent funding for the years 2009 to 2012, up from $37.4 million for 2005 to 2008.

"Mr Rudd has either had a spectacular change of opinion on the Brethren or he is guilty of funding schools that he thinks support a cult and do not deliver modern education.''

A spokeswoman for the M.E.T school in NSW, Jacqui Van de Velde-Gilbert, said the school's enrolments had increased.

She said the school had received a letter from the Federal Government saying it would continue to fund the school using its formula for measuring the socio-economic status of the community.

''Our funding is derived in the same way as any other school's is derived,'' she said.

''We have always made it very open to any government scrutiny.''

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, said the projected increase in funding for the Brethren schools was consistent with the Government's election commitment to maintain the SES funding arrangements through 2009 to 2012.

''These arrangements will be reviewed in an open and transparent process as promised, commencing in 2010.''

Final entitlements for this year will be confirmed after the next census, due in about October.