Shadow Minister for the Illawarra, Ryan Park, has labelled Education Minister Rob Stokes’ recent announcement to increase school maintenance funding a welcome, but insignificant “drop in the ocean”.
Minister Stokes announced this week that he would devote just $60m to the school maintenance backlog – a figure less than 10% of the needed funds to ensure that NSW schools were operating effectively.
Under this Government’s watch the bill for fixing the school’s ailing facilities has blown out to $775 million, according to the latest Government figures.
In one financial year alone (2014-2015) the bill grew by $195 million because of the Government’s inaction on the issue.
Mr Park has come out swinging at the paltry announcement, saying that it shows the Liberal Government’s contempt for the educational needs of students across the region.
Mr Park, the Member for Keira, said it was unknown whether any of the $60m committed will be devoted to fixing the significant maintenance backlogs in his electorate that have spiraled under the Liberals.
It was revealed that there was in excess of $39m of school maintenance backlog in the Illawarra alone. Seven local schools have maintenance backlogs in excess of $1 million, while 23 schools have maintenance backlogs totaling more than $500,000.
In Mr Park’s electorate of Keira, the ten most dilapidated schools have a combined backlog bill of more than $14.5 million while the top ten in Wollongong is more than $10 million.
A wide range of works are needed, including toilet and sewer upgrades, carpet replacement, painting, fixing damaged rooves, installing guttering, replacing windows and other general repairs.
In Keira, the most dilapidated schools were, in order; Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts, as well as Bulli, Corrimal, Keira and Figtree High Schools.
Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for the Illawarra Ryan Park
“The Government is dragging its heels with regards to repairing the schools that they have let fall into dilapidation. It is clear that the Liberals don’t take the needs of our children seriously.
“As a former teacher, I know how important well-equipped schools are. This Government is letting schoolkids and teachers suffer. It’s just not good enough.
“Gladys’s Government has plenty of money to spend on stadiums and toll roads in Sydney, but has no interest in fixing up our crumbling schools. Her priorities are seriously out of line with community expectations.
“Only now, because of pressure from Labor and the community, is it finally doing something about it. It is far too little too late.
“Whether it is fixing roofs, repairing carpets or leaky toilets, creating the right learning environment for our children is of paramount importance.