Public school bank balances have increased more than $98 million in five years, with almost 60 schools each holding more than $1 million in their bank accounts, up from just 13 in 2008.
As WA schools brace for State Government cuts to staff and resources next year, the Education Department released a list of the wealthiest State schools.
It shows some had bank balances up to $3 million in June.
Premier Colin Barnett said on Wednesday that principals could manage funding changes because more than $285 million was “sitting idle” in school accounts.
Education Minister Peter Collier said yesterday he thought many parents would be surprised to learn how many schools had such large sums in the bank.
“These figures demonstrate just how well resourced our schools are,” he said.
“I would expect that schools concerned about resources consider how their bank balances can be best used for their students. This could be to provide additional staff or programs.”
Mr Collier said the bigger bank balances could be attributed to “a variety of reasons” and individual schools made their own decisions about how much money went into accounts.
Only a small proportion would be from P&C groups.Education director-general Sharyn O’Neill said schools could use their funds flexibly to buy resources or pay staff to run particular programs.
“This includes the money in their bank accounts,” she said.
Ms O’Neill said the department provided funds annually and schools were expected to use most of that the same year to meet students’ educational needs.
It was appropriate for schools to hold funds for specific projects, such as specialist equipment, which should be documented in a financial plan.
Prudent management was encouraged but schools should avoid saving a large cash reserve without a clear plan for how to spend it, particularly when there were immediate student needs.WA Primary Principals Association president Stephen Breen said schools needed to build up reserve funds over several years for big-ticket items.
“If the Government wants us to raid that to pay for these cuts, we will be in dire straits in a few years,” Mr Breen said.
Churchlands Senior High School principal Neil Hunt, who had the second highest balance at $3.1 million, said every cent was earmarked to spend this year or to replace items such buses, photocopiers and sets of science textbooks.
The school was saving for facilities to accommodate its expected rapid growth in enrolments.
Rossmoyne Senior High School chairman Bernard Sloan said the $3 million it held in June was committed to improvements such as infrastructure, new and upgraded sports facilities, classroom and office equipment and new buses.Carolyn Cook, principal of Gilmore College in Kwinana, said its $2 million was for items such as an electronic sign, security cameras, computers and furniture, and “earmarked for the benefit of students”.