ECHUCA Specialist School is being slugged $100,000 rent every year – to pay for substandard facilities that include ongoing issues with asbestos, sewerage and power after being refused funding in the Victorian budget.
School council president Scott Morrison said the funding snub was an even worse smack in the face because the school had declined previous funding to fix their current premises on departmental advice the money could – and would – be used for their new school.
Mr Morrison said the students and staff at the Specialist School now have to put up with “possibly the worst facilities in the region” for even longer.
Staff, students and families had been expecting long overdue funding to complete stage two of Twin Rivers and move into new, purpose-built facilities.
But on Tuesday found out their plight did not even rate a mention and they would be forced to wait until 2021 at the earliest to become part of Twin Rivers.
The school currently leases several portable buildings with infrastructure unsuitable for the requirements of its 117 students.
Disgraceful, shameful and unforgivable were just a few of the words used by the school community to describe the news delivered by the Andrews’ Government.
“I would like to ask Premier Andrews where his government’s moral compass is,” Mr Morrison said.
“Because if they have one it seems it’s pointing in the wrong direction,” he said.
“We’re talking about some of the most vulnerable and deserving kids here. This school services a huge area from Cohuna to Kyabram and it’s the only option for parents with special needs kids.
“I’m astounded by the inequity and can’t believe the government has turned its back on these deserving students.”
Principal Paul Marshall said the school would push on but he and the school community was bitterly disappointed they would not get to be part of Echuca’s new school any time soon.
“We were looking forward to working with Twin Rivers and creating inclusive and quality education for the students,” he said.
“This decision puts us in a tough position. The school we’re in is not purpose-built and because of our growth it is not suitable.
“We will continue to push for the funding we deserve, but for now we will do our best with the resources we have.”
Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh said the Victorian Government had promised big but delivered little for regional education by completely overlooking the desperately needed investment at Echuca Specialist School.
“I am bitterly disappointed Echuca has missed out again in a Labor budget that pours $25 billion into metro cost blowouts and goes nowhere to relieving the growing cost of living,” he said.
“I will continue to highlight this gross inequality at every opportunity until the students of Echuca Specialist School are offered the same educational opportunities as their peers.
“The Premier for Melbourne Daniel Andrews and his Treasurer Tim Pallas should hang their heads in shame.
“They have again handed Echuca families a raw deal. Only an elected Nationals government will deliver a better deal for education in Echuca.”
Education Minister James Merlino said the reality was the government were unable to fund every project in every budget.
But Mr Merlino did not comment on the whereabouts of funding previously promised to Echuca Specialist School.
“The ongoing challenge is to responsibly balance and prioritise the needs of 1500 government schools and the demand for school upgrades and new schools created by the state’s population boom,” he said.
“Relocating Echuca Specialist School is part of the Victorian Government’s vision for the Echuca regeneration project.
“We will continue to work with Echuca Specialist School on their infrastructure needs and will consider future funding as part of the usual budget processes.”
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