Education Minister Peter Collier has accused public schools of hoarding money instead of spending it on their students at a time when schools are crying poor.
Responding to criticism from principals that they were struggling to work within revised budgets, Mr Collier said school bank balances were at a record $370,670,285 in March - up 11.3 per cent, or $37.5 million, on the same time last year.
Mr Collier provided figures showing 88 schools held more than $1 million each in their bank accounts in March, while 20 had more than $2 million and eight more than $3 million.
School bank balances have increased 80 per cent, or $163.9 million, in the past five years.
WA Secondary School Executives Association yesterday blasted the minister, saying it was misleading to look at school bank balances out of context and to use figures from March because schools needed the money to last the entire school year. Association president Janette Gee said many schools would be holding funds for things such as building projects for the Year 7 to secondary implementation, overseas student trips and IT resources to be bought with the last instalment of Federal digital education revolution money.
"The Government has been very clear they wish schools to be more autonomous, but you cannot give flexibility on one hand and then criticise schools for finding creative solutions to deploying resources on the other," she said. "It is very clear the resourcing for secondary students has decreased in the 2014-15 budget."
Mr Collier said he appreciated schools liked to have money in the bank for special projects, but he was surprised at the total figure and that 58 per cent of the funds were not allocated to accounts for specific purchases.
He said the figures proved WA's schools were "extraordinarily well-resourced" and it would be "quite legitimate" for parents to inquire about the finances of their child's school. "I am surprised there is over $370 million in the bank accounts of our public schools," Mr Collier said.
He said it was suprising given "the unions and Labor Party have been relentlessly saying that our schools are starved of funds".
Shadow education minister Sue Ellery said Mr Collier either did not have faith in school boards to manage finances of independent public schools or had released the figures to muddy the waters on his education cuts.