Opposition raises questions about $26m of school funding to sites in Labor-held seats

The state government has been accused of playing favorites with a multi-million dollar fund for school upgrades after only sites in Labor-held electorates received cash for projects.

June’s state budget allocated $26.6 million for the Local School Infrastructure Projects.

It was designed to pay for promises that MPs and candidates made during the election campaign.

“It’s quite a unique circumstance that you’ve got tens of millions of dollars announced in a budget for school upgrades and every single dollar is being spent only in Labor seats,” former education minister John Gardner said.

“It’s pretty clear Labor is playing favorites with school funding.”

The now shadow minister claims his successor has bypassed schools in need of classroom upgrades, which were identified in a state-wide priority list held by the Education Department.

“For the government to just ignore that priority list, when there is money across the forward estimates available for school upgrades, is a disgrace,” Mr Gardner said.

Education Minister Blair Boyer said the sites chosen for upgrades were selected when Labor was in opposition and have been supported by the department after the party formed office on March 19.

“All the schools on the list that we are funding are schools that haven’t had much financial support from state governments of either Labor or Liberal persuasion for many years,” he said.

Labor MP Nadia Clancy during the election campaign. (Facebook )

Millions for metro schools

The state government’s local school infrastructure fund will pay for projects at 19 school sites.

All bar one — Yankalilla Area School, which is receiving $200,000 – are in metropolitan Adelaide.

Eleven projects, worth just over $12 million combined, will go into seats Labor was either targeting to win or marginal seats the party was trying to hold at the election.

The electorate of Torrens in Adelaide’s inner north-eastern suburbs comes out on top with three schools sharing in $7 million.

The funding for all of the projects is due to be paid out by mid-2025.

“We listened very closely to the communities on all those projects, I think they were all basically put forward by the schools to local candidates or local members,” Mr Boyer said.

“The premier has made it abundantly clear, and I have made it clear to my staff and my department, that this will be a government that delivers on its election commitments.”

Labor has previously faced accusations of pork barreling in marginal seats over its distribution of funds to sports clubs to pay for election promises.

Earlier this month ABC News revealed Onkaparinga Council knocked back funding for two projects MPs promised ahead of the March poll.

A man in a suit
Shadow education minister John Gardner says only schools in Labor-held seats are getting funding to pay for projects promised during the election campaign.(ABC News)

The opposition had its own $38.8 million school upgrade policy it took to the election.

Twenty schools were identified around the state as needing to have old transportable classrooms replaced, including six in safe seats held by either Labor or Independent MPs.

Mr Gardner said the schools the Liberals pledged to fix were identified by the Education Department on a priority list and cash for the upgrades should be included in the next budget update later this year.

“Fund the upgrades that are needed at these schools to update the facilities and ensure that buildings which are in danger of significant breakdown are fixed before they are presenting problems for our kids,” he said.

But Mr Boyer said his predecessor is being “a little bit clever” when talking about a priority list which he said focused only on replacing portable classrooms.

“That’s a very different question to what are across the board, without exceptions, the infrastructure priorities of the department,” he said.

Mr Boyer said he has recently approved additional money for projects in Liberal held-seats, including $4 million for the new Morialta Secondary College.

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