Source: Sydney Morning Herald
School principals would have greater flexibility in buying school supplies and have control over bank accounts under a NSW Coalition plan to decentralise education bureaucracy control.
The president of the NSW Primary Principals' Association, Jim Cooper, said principals would welcome this greater flexibility.
The NSW Department of Training has a $227 million plan to centralise control over school bank accounts and buying of school supplies through selected contractors.
"A new government would find it difficult to knock that on the head,'' Mr Cooper said. ''It will be interesting to see whether the Coalition can turn that around because [part of] the contract has already been let.''
He said the department's centralised procurement system had saved money on bulk buying of items such as photocopiers. However, many items could be bought more cheaply from local businesses.
''The problem for us as principals is you don't always have the time to go through the bureaucracy,'' he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Public Schools Principals Forum, Brian Chudleigh, said: ''We can see the sense in having limited central procurement, but when the procurement process becomes all-embracing, so that principals have to buy everything through it, it becomes a problem.''
But just as a Coalition government would have to take steps to reverse the Labor government's power privatisation contracts if it wins government next month, it may also have to buy out all or a substantial part of a $227 million Department of Education contract to implement its $60 million education policy.
The opposition spokesman on education, Adrian Piccoli, said implementation of the ''plan to re-empower local school communities'' policy would depend on ''what the current government has locked us into''.
''I wouldn't be surprised if the Labor government has signed contracts knowing that we want to do things differently. It is part of its scorched earth policy. It is going to make government for us as difficult as possible, and I think that is disgusting,'' Mr Piccoli said.
The Coalition's education policy includes a $40 million fund for public school upgrades and $20 million for minor school maintenance budgets, controlled by school principals.
Principals would be allowed to use local tradespeople and local businesses where they offered better value for money. And they would retain control over school bank accounts, which would be regularly audited.
Schools will be able to give priority to maintenance works and nominate local tradespeople from July under the government's proposed new maintenance project, estimated to cost $460 million over five years. A Coalition government may also bear the burden of reversing this contract if it is signed by March 26.
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