Shadow Education Minister Christopher Pyne has slammed the Labor Federal and South Australian Governments for allowing a situation where parents are being asked to contribute towards their students' government-funded school PCs.
The Federal Government is currently coordinating a massive nationwide roll-out of laptops with state education departments as part of its Digital Education Revolution initiative. But in a statement released yesterday, Pyne claimed the scheme had gotten off track.
"At least one South Australian public school is asking parents for $365 a year to allow their students access to the laptops at home and on weekends. Public school students in New South Wales are able to take their laptops home without any additional cost," Pyne said.
"Other schools are urging parents to take advantage of 'Digital Education Revolution pricing' and purchase a laptop outright," he said. "The problem is no one outside of South Australia has ever heard of 'Digital Education Revolution pricing'. It doesn't appear anywhere in the Federal Government's material about the program."
The Australian newspaper has also revealed similar practices at other schools.
Pyne said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had promised parents a "free laptop" as part of the program. "Now it appears in South Australia the State Government is seeking to either skim funds out of the program to bolster their budget bottom-line or have grossly mismanaged their allocation," he said.
The Liberal politician demanded Federal Education Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard step in to resolve the issue.
In a statement, Gillard defended the situation. "Individual schools can obviously make arrangements to assist parents with the provision of computers at home," she said. "The Rudd Government's Education Tax Refund is available to help parents with education costs like the purchase of a home computer for their child."
"Of course, Christopher Pyne and the Liberal Party are so out of touch that they deny that our schools need computers for learning in the 21st century."