State government’s hands are in the cookie jar over school bank accounts
MILLIONS of dollars of interest will be snatched from state school bank accounts by the cash-strapped state government under a radical restructure of education department finances, principals and parents fear.
More than 2200 primary and secondary school accounts could be replaced with a centralised banking system by 2014.
The move, part of the Learning Management Business Reform program, would deliver a single finance, human resource and student management system across the department but would take finances out of the hands of principals.
Despite being told the overhaul would save money, teachers are concerned they would no longer be able to keep tens of thousands of dollars in interest payments which go towards stationery, books and uniform subsidies.
“We’re running pretty tight to the bone anyway and if there is a proposal to take away any money from the school budget then it’s going to cause problems,” Blacktown South Primary School principal Geoff Scott said.
A Department of Education and Communities spokesman said the reform aimed to improve school finances: “The Learning Management Business Reform program is currently in the design phase and the Department of Education and Communities is working with principals and school communities to design a system which best suits their local needs.”
Former primary school head and Primary Schools Principals Forum spokesman Brian Chudleigh said the group did not believe assurances that schools would not lose the interest.
“Principals are absolutely aghast about losing control of their finances – it will reduce us to the level of a McDonald’s franchise,” he said.
“We were assured there was no intention that interest money could be taken back under these changes.
“What is being done will give them (the government) the capacity to do it.
“We don’t believe (the assurances) because the NSW Treasury is so strapped for cash they will do anything to get that money.
“The fear is that principals won’t have control (of their bank accounts) and will have to seek the approval of a grade one clerk to do anything.”
Education sources said bureaucrats in the department had been “eyeing off” interest monies in school bank accounts for years, claiming they could make better use of it.
Primary Principals Association president and Albion Park Public School principal Jim Cooper said students could be worse off.
“If it means a reduction in resources given to schools then it usually means a reduction of things given to students,” he said.
Secondary Principals’ Council president Chris Cawsey said an average high school would lose $25,000 a year if interest were withheld.