A late surge has seen almost 90 per cent of decile 1 to 7 public schools – affecting 416,000 students – signing up to the Government’s offer of $150 per student for axing parent donations.
The policy was flagged by Labour in the 2017 election campaign (though scaled back at this stage from applying to all schools) and announced at this year’s Budget with a price tag of $265.5m over four years.
It was initially welcomed by school principals, but many were concerned that taking up the offer would see them worse off overall, as many parent donations amounted to more than $150 a year.
But those fears appear to have subsided.
In a post-Cabinet announcement today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Education Minister Chris Hipkins said almost 90 per cent of eligible schools had signed up for 2020 – up from about a third when the law to enact the policy passed its third reading last month.
The parents of about 416,000 students will benefit from the policy in 2020, which will cost the Government about $62.5 million.
“I’m really pleased that this scheme is going to give 1563 schools guaranteed extra funding next year and that those communities won’t be under pressure to pay donations,” Hipkins said.
“From Tai Tokerau to Southland the scheme has been recognised by almost 90 per cent of eligible schools nationwide.
“Students will get to enjoy the benefits of the additional funding without families feeling under pressure to find the money within their own household budget.”
The highest proportion of eligible schools to opt in were in the Tai Tokerau (95.7 per cent) and Wellington (93.7 per cent) regions, while the lowest were Otago/Southland (85.2 per cent) and Auckland (85.4 per cent).
Almost 95 per cent of all decile 3 schools signed up, whereas the lowest take-up was from decile 6 (82.9 per cent) and decile 7 (78.7 per cent).
The Budget announcement was initially welcomed by school principals.
But many schools, as well as primary teachers’ union NZEI, later told a parliamentary select committee that opting into the scheme would see them worse off, as many schools collect more than $150 a year from parents.
Donations averaged $187 per student across all schools in 2016.
The policy also drew questions about whether it would jeopardise school camps, prompting Education Minister Chris Hipkins to reassure schools that they could still ask for camp donations – as long as the camps were voluntary.
The law was changed during the parliamentary process to specify that the Education Minister can decide what activities would be exempt.
Hipkins said he would then make school camps exempt, meaning that schools asking for camp donations from parents would not be disqualified from the Government grant.
“We’re not proposing to exempt anything else. Other governments in the future might choose to,” Hipkins has said.