The Sydney Morning Herald has revealed today from a leaked report that the NSW public school system is facing a $7 billion shortfall unless the government doubles its spending over the next two decades. To meet demand, over 220 new public schools will have to be built in the next 20 years. Just how did we get into this mess?
Experts say the ‘failure to anticipate Sydney’s rising student population is a fundamental failure of budgeting and coordination*.’
A senior bureaucrat at the Department for Education said, “…that came as a shock. The department has not had a good handle on its asset strategy for many years.”
Planning expert Bill Randolf, head of the City Futures Centre at the University of NSW says, “Budgets have been set that are so deficient.”
So what has the government got to say about it?
The Minister’s office says the government inherited an infrastructure backlog. This extraordinary failure lies at the feet of both the Labor and Liberal parties.
Four ministers in ten years – Labor’s Carmel Tebbutt, John Della Bosca, Verity Firth and currently the coalition’s Adrian Piccoli – have each failed to plan for the increase in population.
Over the past decade under the Labor government a number of inner Sydney schools were sold off in disastrous 'get rich quick' schemes. Now, we face a dire shortage.
In the electorate of Balmain alone there is a projected increase of 1000 students over the next five years.
Balmain and Blackwattle campuses of Sydney Secondary College are at 100 per cent capacity, along with several public primary schools. Parents are facing the agonising choice of separating siblings because public primary schools in the Balmain electorate are shrinking boundaries and limiting intake. The lack of government planning is making life harder for families.
The data is very clear and has been for too long. We need new public high school capacity on both sides of the Anzac Bridge.
The time for talk is well and truly over. The government must urgently acquire the land for a new school and get on with the job of building it.
*Sydney Morning Herald, 12 September 2014.