The BER has cost too much – now there’s a surprise

Last Friday, the Govt finally conceded that the hastily-conceived BER programme is actually going to cost more than they originally bargained for. Not really a shock, considering how quickly the funding models were arranged. The P21 component (new libraries, sports halls, classrooms, early childhood centres and internal refurbishments) was so ‘successful’ that funding had to be increased from $14.7bn to $16.2bn. Doesn’t seem so bad when written like that, but consider that is actually an additional $1 500 000 000, that we actually don’t have. So how would we find this extra dosh?

Much has been said about the P21 funding, with some schools revealing that they didn’t actually want a new facility, but had other things they desperately needed, and were being encouraged to build as much as possible, so they didn’t “miss out”. (Check out The Australian on-line news archives for the BER – they really got stuck into the system.) This lot of funding was based on the number of students, and no other criteria. So a big inner-city private school could get up to $3 000 000, but small schools with less students, and therefore less ability to raise their own capital, could only get up to $850 000. (Which may sound like a lot but wouldn’t even get half a donga built in some of our rural and remote  communities). Seem fair?

Well more was revealed this Wednesday, when funding for the new high school science and language centres was cut by $200 million. The final round of the application process was cancelled, after schools had submitted their applications. This lot of funding was based on different criteria to the P21 funding – and that was need. Disadvantaged and low socio-economic schools throughout Australia were reviewed as to their ‘neediness’ to build a new science or language centre. Schools were noted as being in desperate need of new facilities, especially in Australia’s rural areas. But then the money was pulled, and these schools end up getting nothing.

It seems grossly unfair that schools that need facilities miss out while schools that may be able to self-fund projects get my tax dollars to build up their empires. And apparently Kevin Rudd currently has the highest approval ratings of any Labor Prime Minister EVER. What??!!

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