Keira MP Ryan Park made no apologies on Tuesday for highlighting the “worrying” maintenance backlog faced by many Illawarra schools.
The NSW Government though accused Labor of playing “political games” on the very day that most teachers, parents and students were all focusing on getting back to class
But the shadow treasurer said the timing made perfect sense.
“This is the time to talk about it,” Mr Park said.
“Students, teachers, principals and parents are all going back and I’m making it very clear to parents, and to students and to schools, that our priority from a Labor perspective is funding of schools and hospitals.
We have a government hell bent on investing money to rebuild sport stadiums while our children sit in classrooms requiring urgent maintenance and repair.Ryan Park
“”It's not over prioritising stadiums.
“We have a government hell bent on investing money to rebuild sport stadiums while our children sit in classrooms requiring urgent maintenance and repair.
‘’We're urging the government to rethink their priorities because we have schools, including those in the Illawarra who have got maintenance backlogs that are too great, too significant, we need to get them fixed.”
Mr Park said his electorate of Keira was one of the worst in the state, with a backlog of school maintenance works exceeding $2 million.
But a spokesperson for Education Minister Rob Stokes said the maintenance figures being claimed by the opposition are almost two years old.
The spokesperson said almost $6 million was invested in school maintenance across the Illawarra region over the summer period alone.
“With $1.8 million allocated to schools in Keira, more than $1.4 million in Kiama, and $1.5 million in Wollongong schools,” he said.
“In the South Coast electorate, close to $1 million was spent over the summer period, an example being $700,000 at Nowra East Public School on roofing, painting and new carpets.”
The spokesperson added the NSW Government has invested a record $747 million to address school maintenance over the four years from 2017/18 to 2020/21.
“On top this this, we will also grow the school system by spending $4.2 billion over four years building 120 new or upgraded schools….This is the biggest investment in public school infrastructure in the history of NSW.”
Read more: Illawarra’s most neglected schools revealed
Mr Park said new schools was well and good but the government needed to deliver essential school repairs to existing facilities.
“Students most importantly need to be operating in classrooms that are fit for the 21st century,” he said.
“Thats what we need to focus on before we start to allocate money to pie in the sky projects that really do not need to be done at this point of time.”