Where’s the money, Minister Merlino?
BEECHWORTH Secondary College council and the college community continues to be dismayed by the Victorian government’s failure to make an unambiguous funding commitment for long overdue capital works at the college campus.
The college was one of six rural and regional schools among 35 which shared in a $12 million state budget allocation last year to meet the costs of scoping and planning for major new building and infrastructure improvements.
This took Beechworth a step closer but the government ignored the school community’s needs in the current budget.
The last major improvements on the campus were completed a decade ago.
College council president Larry Goldsworthy said students were still being taught in substandard demountable classrooms.
“It’s time the state government stopped treating the students and staff of Beechworth Secondary College as second class citizens,” he told the Ovens and Murray Advertiser last week.
“Our children are being taught in 1960s-era demountable buildings and it has been going on for too long, while other schools all around us have modern facilities.
“We need actions and not words from our politicians.
“If you know or can write a letter to our Premier, Treasurer, Minister for Education and local Members of Parliament then please do so – and keep reminding them that our kids matter, too.”
“We need funds allocated to build the school that will set the foundation for the future education needs of our children. The government has responded to Adver
tiser questions with a bland statement. “Beechworth Secondary College received funding to start planning an upgrade so that work can start the moment funding is delivered,” a spokesman for Education Minister James Merlino said late last week.
“Capital works funding will be considered in future Budgets.”
The minister’s office confirmed that the department In 2012 had made a building condi- tion assessment at every Victorian school and that this influenced when funding upgrade decisions would be made.
Bill Tilley (MLA, Benambra) to the Advertiser that he had again pitched for bricks-andmortar funding for the college in the current budget but he feared the college had become a victim of political games.
“During our time in government the-then education minister Martin Dixon instructed the department to conduct an audit of all Victorian state schools,” he said.
“The theory was that it would take the politics out of the decision-making by prioritising schools with the greatest need, rather than trying to win votes.”
Mr Tilley said Beechworth Secondary College had at the time been” very high” on the list of Benambra electorate schools needing capital works.
“Those schools above Beechworth have now been funded or at least promised money, admittedly and disappointingly in some cases two and three years down the track,” he said.
“If that list remains current either Beechworth or Wodonga Middle Years’ Huon campus should be the next priority but what we are hearing suggests that’s not the case.”
College principal Patricia Broom said she hoped funds for construction would be made available in next year’s budget – for the 201819 financial year.
She said she had worked with the government-appointed architects DWP Suters in the planning process and plans for the campus improvements had now been finalised.
In a school visit last October – when further funding looked promising – Education Minister Merlino said a great education started with state-of-the-art facilities.
“It stimulates students and encourages them to be creative,” he said.
When the government does make a clear funding commitment then two new buildings will be constructed – one for science, food technology, performing arts and information technology teaching and study and the second for a canteen.
DISMAYED: Beechworth Secondary College students Sarwar Hussain (left), Tom Christesen, Riley Goldsworthy, Holly Borschman, Morgan Lupson, Indigo Rowe and college council president Larry Goldsworthy are disgruntled that the campus has continued to miss...