I am a proud product of the public education system. I believe that maintaining the best standards in public education must be the number one priority of government.
Unfortunately, the record of this Government when it comes to investing in our kids and our schools just does not stack up.
Across New South Wales, we see classrooms falling into disrepair, parents and citizens associations are forced to fundraise for basic maintenance and schools are bursting at the seams.
We now know that more than one-third of our schools across the State are at capacity or, indeed, well above capacity.
Some schools, including in my electorate of Summer Hill, have students taking shifts in the playground because there is not space for all of them to run around at lunch time. That is not just capacity, but well over capacity.
On current figures, New South Wales needs 225,000 new school places by 2031. But if we continue at the rate the Government is investing it will take us 45 years to meet those targets.
What about the current kids squeezed into classrooms? We will not meet that target until 45 years later, which is not good enough.
Under this Government, we have a staggering $10.8 billion shortfall in funding for the school places we desperately need for the next 15 years.
At the same time as the Government is cramming more and more students into schools, it is also content to let those schools fall apart.
The maintenance backlog for New South Wales public schools stands at $732 million. More than 120 schools in our State have a maintenance backlog in excess of $1 million.
The Government likes to crow about the money it has invested in schools since 2011, but we know it actually underspent its education budget by $281 million. That is $281 million that should have been spent on our crumbling classrooms. And it is the parents, the parents and citizens organisations, that have to pick up the tab. They are the ones who out there fundraising, cooking cakes to do basic repairs, painting and maintaining our schools. It is not good enough.
The maintenance of our public schools should be a top order responsibility. Meanwhile the Government is rezoning and putting extra density into areas where the schools are currently at capacity.
In my area there are rezoning plans across the inner west that is density at an extraordinary scale, but there are no plans for essential community resources and infrastructure like new child care centres, new hospitals, open space, places for kids to play and no new schools.
It does not add up, but Labor has a better plan.
We will audit government land to identify sites for new schools. We will task the Greater Sydney Commission with planning for new schools. We will mandate child care, and before-and-after school care in all new schools. Every student would be guaranteed 15 hours of preschool before kindergarten. Every primary school student will learn a second language, and we will put TAFE back on top.
In contrast to this Government we have a positive plan. This Government does not at all.