Greens $3.5 billion public schools building package to solve maintenance backlog, remove overcrowding

Media release: 18 March 2015 The Greens today announced a $3.5 billion plan from their $20 billion infrastructure fund to build new public schools and remove most of the $500 million maintenance and refurbishment backlog identified by the NSW Auditor-General. Greens NSW MP John Kaye said that the ability of public education to meet the growing demand for places in classrooms and facilities that are clean, modern and safe does not have to come at the expense of privatising the wires and poles. The Greens have shown that a $20 billion loan can be serviced and payed back on the revenue from a vendors' duty on property speculators, increased poker machine taxes on the super profitable clubs and maintaining duties on big business transactions (See: Greens NSW). Building public education for the 21st century

  • Building 389 new public primary classrooms each year for the next ten years to meet the expected increase in demand, as forecast by the Australian Council for Educational Research report1 “The Teacher workforce in Australia: Supply, demand and data issues” Estimated cost: $1.8 billion, based on an average capital cost of $470,000 per classroom
  • Building the equivalent of 60 new high schools over the next ten years to ensure that growing communities have the choice of a local public high school. Estimated cost: $1.2 billion, based on an average of $20 million per new school. Individual school costs vary according to availability of land.
  • A new planning structure that requires the Department of Planning to estimate the schooling needs of all new developments and the Department of Education and Communities to have secured sites to meet those needs, before any development is approved. A new emphasis on identifying and securing new sites before local communities are plunged into crisis by the shortage of places to locate a new school. Estimated cost: included in the costs of new primary and secondary schools.
  • Clearing the maintenance and refurbishment backlog in public schools. Estimated cost: $500 million, which clears almost all of the $550 million backlog according to the Auditor General's December 2014 report2 into Education and Communities.
  • Total cost: $3.5 billion

The Greens would fund on-going maintenance and refurbishment work in public schools by imposing land taxes and other charges on non-government schools. Media comments Greens NSW MP John Kaye said: "Overcrowding and poorly maintained classrooms will drive parents away from public education unless real money is found to create new, modern schools and facilities. "They are unacceptable to the community and unnecessary if politicians were prepared to fix the tax system and provide the money to solve the problem. "Twenty years of neglect and underfunding have left public schools with desperate capital needs. "The growth in demand for new schools was entirely predictable. Because neither Labor nor the Liberals and Nationals are committed to the future of public education, there has been almost no planning for the growth in demand. "Sites have not been secured and there has been no plan to ensure that public schools can meet all of the increased demand. "This and previous governments have been prepared to let public schools lose their share of students to the Catholic and independent sectors. They have allowed an unfunded maintenance backlog to grow to more than $0.5 billion. "The Greens have shown it is possible to build new classrooms and refurbish existing schools to secure the future of public education, without privatising public assets. "Premier Mike Baird wants to hold public schools to ransom in his bid to sell off control over the wires and poles. "Labor has resorted to smoke and mirrors tricks, including announcing a demountable replacement program that allocates only $22,000 for each new classroom. "There has been no commitment from either of the old parties to clear the maintenance backlog in public schools. "We are promising a one-off injection of $500 million to bring all public schools up to standard and then on-going funding to maintain high standard facilities and classrooms, funded from land taxes on non-government schools. "This is about ensuring that public education grows over the next twenty years and maintains and improves its share of students. “It is also about ensuring that every child can be educated in world-standard classrooms," Dr Kaye said. For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455