NSW school maintenance a "disgrace": Opposition

Monday, May 29, 2006

New South Wales opposition leader, Peter Debnam has called the maintenance backlog in NSW schools a disgrace following an announcement by the Iemma government to spend AUD$120 million over four-years.

Mr Debnam challenged the government to fix the problem before the election in March next year and said that the plan was a "fraud".

In 2005, the NSW Auditor-General released a report disclosing a $116 million maintenance backlog in schools across the state. The report stated that there were 1,000 outstanding maintenance jobs, ranging from leaking roofs and fraying carpets to classrooms in need of paint across the states' 2,224 government-owned schools.

On Sunday, NSW Premier, Morris Iemma announced that his government would be spending $120 million over a four-year period to clear the backlog. During the announcement, he admitted that the government needed to do more to clear the backlog. “It is part of our plan to ensure our children have the best possible education and the best possible learning environment,” he said.

Teachers have said that the level of funding and time frame were not enough to clear a backlog spanning 10 years. President of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maree O'Halloran said, "Why should children have to wait four years for overdue maintenance work which forms the maintenance backlog?"

"In 2005, the Auditor-General identified a $115 million maintenance backlog and Professor Tony Vinson called for an additional $90 million dollars for maintenance per year, over two years." said Ms O'Halloran.

Opposition education spokesperson, Brad Hazzard said that the government's plan is a fraud and that the reason students are leaving school is because of the out-dated infrastructure.

"The announcement of extra money is a fraud because it is over four years," said Mr Hazzard.

"The State Government has shown no foresight about the major problem that causes … students to walk away from the public school system annually - 1960 infrastructure in the 21st century." said Mr Hazzard.