Pyne gives state schools the devil's choice

LNP funding religious workers in our schools instead of trained counsellors

The National School Chaplaincy Program is exploiting the desperation of many NSW public school principals for additional assistance to cope with their schools' welfare needs, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.

Dr Kaye said: "It is hardly surprising that public schools are putting their hats in the ring for another set of hands.

"Principals coping with the impacts of students from dysfunctional homes, endemic poverty and even the normal stresses of growing up are unlikely to turn down additional assistance, even if it breaches the promise that no child will be proselytised at school.

"The program is deeply unfair.

"Principals have to make the devil's choice between extra resources to deal with welfare stress and protecting their students from chaplains hunting for converts.

"Religious schools that already have access to chaplaincy from their own denomination's clergy will be allowed to double dip.

"Many of the more than 180 Catholic, Protestant, Islamic and Jewish schools getting a free $20,000 a year gift would have had chaplains operating in the school even without the program.

"In religious schools that are already supported by clergy and lay volunteers, the program fails on even simple economic and governance grounds to ensure that public money is purchasing a service that would not have already been provided.

"Providing money to religious schools for chaplains is a waste of taxpayers' money.

"The Agreement delegates the allocation of chaplains to a cross-sector committee.

"Decisions about which public schools need more assistance will be handled by a committee with representatives of the Catholic and Independent schools, many of whom will have no idea of the range of stresses facing a school serving a disadvantaged community.

"The NSW Department of Education will now be required to establish and operate a new governance structure to cope with compliance, complaints and child safety at more than 500 schools across all three sectors.

"The Abbot government is allocating an entirely inadequate $320,000 a year for this task. Inevitably there will have to be a cross-subsidy out of the public education budget to prop up religious recruiting.

"NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli should renegotiate the deal and allow the money to be used to create more school counsellor positions in public schools," Dr Kaye said.