The NSW Auditor General’s report into the failed Local Schools Local Decisions (LSLD) program shows how mismanaged and misdirected this multi-billion dollar experiment has been. With public schools desperately needing more resourcing to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, LSLD must be ended and the money immediately redirected to meet identified school and student needs. 

The report makes a number of damning findings including that: 

  • The Department has never had sufficient oversight of the local use of needs-based funding
  • There were no clear targets set for needs based equity funding 
  • No standardised reporting of outcomes from funding was set 
  • The lack of targets and reporting meant it was not possible to demonstrate the impact of funding on student performance, even at a state level 
  • The guidance provided to schools was insufficient and overly bureaucratic 
  • School budget systems were not fit-for-purpose 
  • Lack of certainty in budget allocations has led schools to not spend funding 

Greens MP and Education Spokesperson David Shoebridge said: 

“This report confirms the concerns we have had about this program since its inception in 2012, the program should be immediately scrapped.  

“The failure to tie funding to meaningful targets, not assessing the impact of funding that was delivered and the lack of support from the Department have all contributed to a waste of public funds. 

“The opportunity cost of this failed program is enormous. Imagine how many children’s lives could have been lifted up if these funds were spent directly on programs that are proven to help rather than spread so haphazardly across the state?  

“At the end of last year there was $1.3 billion sitting unspent in school accounts because of poor scheme design, and billions more have been spent over the past 8 years under a policy with no fixed goals, no clear strategy and no accountability.

“The attempt to turn principals into mini-treasurers was poorly conceived and the lack of oversight and reporting have made this a multi-billion dollar disaster. 

“In the middle of a pandemic when Principals are working to be educational and community leaders, Local Schools Local Decisions is instead forcing them to be untrained business managers. 

“The fundamental flaws in this program of devolving decision making and accountability cannot be untangled, and the experiment must stop. 

“This report comes on top of data we released which shows more than $1.3 billion dollars sitting unspent in school bank accounts at a time when schools all around NSW are desperate for funding. 

“Simply imposing more accountability in schools when there aren’t the state level supports to help them succeed is unacceptable,” Mr Shoebridge said