Tuckshops or technology? Schools choose under Lib plans

Polcy announcements still to follow

Schools will choose between technology and tuckshops under Coalition plans to axe the $2.1 billion computers-in-schools and $16.2 billion Building Education Revolution (BER) schemes, pending further policy announcements.

The Coalition would say schools could have both, under its plans to give schools free reign on investment using funds from the latter scheme. The axing is part of its plan to save some $46 billion by cutting the National Broadband Network, the e-health scheme, and the Digital Education Revolution (DER).

The DER includes the National Secondary School Computer Fund — commonly referred to as the computers-in-schools program that aims to provide new or upgraded ICT for secondary school students in Years 9 to 12. It was announced in November 2007 and aims to achieve a one-to-one computer to student ratio by the end of next year.

So far, an average of 9281 computers are being rolled out each month.

Shadow minister for education apprenticeships and training, Christopher Pyne, said a dumped BER scheme would provide for "significant" ICT investment.

“We have announced two policies so far that will benefit students and potentially be utilised for education ICT. The redirection of funding under the school hall program will mean schools have significant funds to invest into computers, or any other priority," Pyne said in a statement to Computerworld Australia

"We will have further policies to announce later in the campaign."

Under the Opposition plan to be enacted in its first week in government, should it win the election, schools will retain funds left over from the completion of planned constructions.

The Coalition estimates most public schools will save about a third of total funds by self-managing the budgets.

"The savings could amount to hundred of thousands of extra dollars schools will be able to invest in the fit-out of classrooms, additional computers, PE equipment, or anything else on the priority list," the Coalition wrote in a statement.

Parents for school children would be provided with a boosted education tax rebate, which was injected with additional funds and widened in scope to include the cost of computers, educational software and Internet connections. A further $760 million was committed by the Coalition over the forward estimates towards the scheme.

The extension increases the 50 per cent offsets by $110 and $339 from a total of $1000 and $2000 for primary and secondary school educational expenses and will commence 1 January 2011.

“This funding will be provided from the nearly $24 billion in recurrent savings that have been identified by the Coalition over the forward estimates. These are savings from cutting Labor’s waste and mismanagement and redirecting funding from inefficient and poorly performing Labor Government programmes,” a joint Liberal press release stated.

Media reports suggested the Coalition had promised a substitute for the dumped Digital Education Revolution, which the party claims would save some $700 million will be saved over four years by scrapping the plan.

The computer-in-schools scheme was described as “unstoppable” earlier this year by former NSW Department of Education and Training chief information officer and state computers in schools architect, Chief information officer, Stephen Wilson.

“The voters of NSW will not put up with this program ending in four years,” Wilson said at the time.

“It is unstoppable. I put my faith in the fact that commonsense will prevail and somewhere, somehow funds will be delivered.”

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