The Catholic Education Diocese of Wagga Wagga (CEDWW) has responded to questions regarding the use of its government and private funding, saying it fully supports the Catholic Schools NSW (CSNSW) distribution model.
It follows allegations from the national broadcaster, that the state's Catholic schools have been keeping school fees low for metropolitan primary schools, while regional schools foot the bill.
The CEDWW did not provide The Daily Advertiser with a breakdown of its funding and where it is being distributed but according to the Australian Curriculum, Reporting and Assessment Authority, in 2018, Catholic schools across the state received $15,020 per student.
In a statement, Jacinta Collins of the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) said in 2018 students in regional areas of Wagga, Armidale, Bathurst and Wilcannia Forbes benefited from between $16,100 and $21,000 per student in funding. In the same year, Ms Collins said, Sydney-residing students received $14,300 per student.
Responding to questions from The Daily Advertiser a spokersperson for the CEDWW said efforts have been made to keep fees and funds local to the Riverina catchment area.
"The bulk of government funding is used to pay the wages of teachers and support staff across [the region's] 26 primary schools and five high schools," the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson further assured that "100 per cent of parent contributions stay in the diocese" and that the system is compliant with the Australian Education Act (AEA).
"School fees paid by parents are not redistributed. They go directly to each school and are used for the day-to-day running of the school," they said.
"A small levy per student does go into a central fund to pay for capital infrastructure and maintenance across our schools as the law doesn't allow government funds to be used for building works."
The spokesperson further explained that the CEDWW distributes funding according to the needs within its community, assisting families were need can be established.
"[The] CEDWW is responsible for the distribution of government funding received from CSNSW to local schools based on a needs-based amount for each, plus equity loadings for disadvantage," the spokesperson said.
"These loadings are for the support of students with disabilities and additional needs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, socio-economic disadvantage, students with low proficiency in English and small, remote schools. Equity loading funds are provided to each school as attracted."
The idea that every child is entitled to a Catholic education should they desire one is a notion that parent Bill Wood has heard. But he said he would prefer to see the CEDWW "open its books" on exactly where the parental contributions are going.
"We know what our school fees are costing," Mr Wood said.
"I don't feel I'm getting duped with my school fees but it's hard to know where it's going. The finances of the schools is not something that's shared freely."
When relocating from Canberra to Wagga 13 years ago, Catholic schools parent Amanda Howard said she was surprised to see a "significant drop in the fees".
"The fees halved coming to Wagga and it was a long time ago, but I think the same is still true today," Ms Howard said.
In the ACT, Ms Howard was paying up to $3828 for her children to attend Catholic schools. The sharp reduction upon regional relocation is in contrast to the idea that country areas are propping up the needs of their city counterparts.
But for Ms Howard, the amount is somewhat irrelevant, for she too would like the CEDWW to "be transparent" with the community's fees.
"To be honest, we are never really told where the funds are being divided up," she said.