MEDIA RELEASE: Baird Government underspends education budget while Maitland school maintenance backl

The NSW Department of Education’s latest annual report reveals a massive amount of underspending on the state’s schools.

The Baird Government committed to investing $14.2 billion on education during 2014-15. Yet the Department’s own report (p.56) shows an actual underspend of $281 million less than promised.

Millions in unallocated funds should have been spent on reducing the crippling maintenance backlog.

The report also reveals (p.69) that in 2015 the government decreased spending on maintenance by $26.6 million from the previous year. The full annual report can be viewed here.

In April, NSW Labor obtained documents under freedom of information that indicated a staggering $732 million maintenance backlog across NSW primary and high schools.

Maitland’s 21 public schools had a backlog of nearly $13 million as of June 30, 2015. Four high schools had backlogs of more than $1.5 million. Maitland High had a backlog of $1.7 million, Maitland Grossman, $1.6 million, and Francis Greenaway, $1.4 million. While Rutherford High received a boost of $20 million for new buildings and upgrades, its maintenance backlog still sat at more than $2 million.

In Maitland, in the first half of this year, the government has spent only 7.5% of the funds needed (about $950,000) to address this backlog. At six schools, it has spent nothing.

The backlog consists mainly of basic necessities and general repairs.

Under the Baird Government the school maintenance backlog has surged. Reporting by the NSW Auditor-General shows the maintenance backlog jumped a whopping $195 million between 2013-14 and 2014-15, more than 36 per cent in one year.

The underspend is particularly concerning given the urgent need to reduce the crippling maintenance log in Maitland schools, which are the worst affected in the Hunter.

Quotes attributable to Jenny Aitchison

“Tackling the huge maintenance backlog is more important than coming in massively under budget.

“The maintenance backlog is not for luxury items in Maitland schools, it’s for basic things like heaters and fans that don’t work, taps that leak, peeling paint and threadbare carpets.

“Maitland teachers and students need well-maintained facilities to create the best learning environments.

“If the money was there, why wasn’t it spent on Maitland schools? The Government should apologise for promising to spend more but actually delivering less.”

To view the original release click here

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