By: Claire Trevett

Labour leader Andrew Little at Paraparaumu School. PHOTO/NZME

The policy is in Labour’s new education policy, which will be unveiled today and is similar to its 2014 policy, which offered $100 per student to schools that stopped donations. However, it will not be enough to get all schools on board.

Labour is estimating more than half of schools will take up the offer, mainly mid and low decile schools where the donations tended to be smaller than $150. The costing of $70m was based on 450,000 students.

Labour leader Andrew Little said the education system was supposed to be free and accessible to everybody and there was concern about parents feeling pressured to fork out for the ‘voluntary donations’ to bolster the school coffers. The policy would end the donations for the majority of parents.

“Under National, school donations have jumped by 50 per cent and they continue to rise due to National’s freeze on schools’ operational funding last year.”

Schools would still be able to request parents pay for extra-curricular activities.

While schools can request fees for activities such as school camps, they are not allowed to charge fees or take action against those who do not pay the ‘donations’.

Ministry of Education data shows in 2015 the average donation at a decile one school was $85 ranging up to $294 at decile 10 schools. In 2016 some high decile schools in Auckland were charging more than $1000, such as Auckland Grammar which got more than $2m in fees.

Schools took about $109m in donations in 2014 – up from $75m in 2008. About half of that was going to decile nine and 10 schools. Schools also got $81.8m in fees for extra-curricular activities and raised $42m from other forms of fundraising.

Those schools have argued they need the donations to supplement government funding and offer extra services, especially at high decile schools, which get less funding.

It is used to top up their operational funding and pay for things such as support staff or equipment and resources.

That pressure is likely to have increased in the past year after the Government froze the operational funding and instead put extra funds into schools based on the number of disadvantaged students they had. This year’s Budget saw a 1.3 per cent increase across the board in operational funding.

Schools have long asked parents to put in extra money under both Labour and National governments – and in the past schools have pressured parents to pay, such as by stopping students undertaking activities such as the school ball if it was unpaid.

The Education Ministry has made it clear schools cannot force parents to pay or take action against students whose parents had not paid.

Former Education Minister Hekia Parata has previously defended leaving schools to ask for donations, saying parents contributed just $1.80 for every $100 spent by the taxpayer on education.

The Government injected an extra $1.1 billion into education in the last Budget, taking the total Budget to $11.6b.

Little said Labour’s wider education package included plans to spend an extra $4b in education over the next four years, including $1.7b to boost funding levels in critical areas and deliver more teachers.

That would benefit early childhood centres and tertiary institutions as well as parents and students.

Source: NZ Herald

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