Is government’s cash splash just a vote grab?

There must be a state election looming. In recent weeks, journalists’ inboxes have been flooded with funding announcements from the state government.

While these grants are great news for the local community – and we genuinely welcome and celebrate them – it’s hard not to be a little skeptical when one looks at the calendar and sees there is just under five months (or less than 130 days) until South Australians head to the polls.

Likewise, the Opposition is in full electioneering mode, with a new policy announced each week (or more). It’s easy to say things will happen “if” we get elected – what’s lacking is serious detail and solid commitment.

But back to funding… it’s fantastic to see some of our local public schools have benefited from significant financial support, particularly through the Building Better Schools Program which was heavily spruiked by the Premier and Education Minister last week.

However, when the Barossa’s only public high school – which has been calling for assistance to replace buildings more than 50 years old for several years now – misses out on the cash splash, one has to wonder what the ‘criteria’ are.

According to the Education Minister Susan Close, the allocation of funds via the Building Better Schools Program was determined using a Department for Education and Child Development analysis tool (that’s all the detail we got). Nuriootpa High School did not meet ‘certain elements’ of the criteria and the selected schools were considered to be a higher priority.

Now Nuriootpa Primary School was absolutely deserving of its grant – the wider school community will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief knowing serious infrastructure issues are finally being addressed.

But why has its neighbour, which has significantly increased student numbers across a five-year period, and continues to grow, been left out?

Nuri High has recently received funding via the state government’s STEM program, and is slated to receive finance for solar panels and LED lighting – both welcomed by the school, but neither actively sought.

Meanwhile, students are being educated in ailing asbestos classrooms which cost about $125,000 to maintain annually, and which school leaders have actively campaigned to have replaced and updated.

Surely our region’s public secondary students deserve better.