Parents prop up schools to tune of $250m

Sunday Star Times 26 February 2012
New Zealand parents are forking out a quarter of a billion dollars a year in school “donations” to help prop up schools. With an average cost of running a large secondary school estimated by principals at $10 million, that means parents are fully funding the equivalent of 25 big high schools – buildings, equipment, maintenance and wages. Increasingly donations are being used to pay for one of the most important areas of the curriculum – new technology.

The struggle to keep students up-to-date with fast moving technology, vital to the country’s future, is bringing the issue to a head, principals say. Teachers and parent groups alike say the concept of “free education” is nonsense and the education system is dependent on parents propping it up. Secondary School Principals Association president Patrick Walsh, principal of John Paul College in Rotorua, said: “I think the concept of free education at best is seen as aspirational, or is seen as disingenuous by those who propose it.” Education Minister Hekia Parata said: “Schooling has always had a cost. That cost has principally been met by the government of the day, and that continues to be the case now.” She says parents have always – and will always – need to pick up some cost.

But parents are saying the donations and fees demanded by schools are getting too much. According to information gained under the Official Information Act by lobby group Family First, the amount of school voluntary donations paid by families in the past four years has totalled more than $1 billion – $234m (2007), $247m (2008), $272m (2009), and $266m in 2010.

…Bob McCroskrie, national director of Family First NZ, said: “Despite the Education Act saying that state school education is free, this is completely removed from the truth. Families are forking out large amounts to help schools meet their budgets and provide core services.” Walsh said: “The reality is schools couldn’t afford to function without a contribution from parents or finding some other secondary income stream.”

$266.7 million donated to school system in 2010
Radio NZ News 26 Feb 2012$266-point-7-million-donated-to-school-system-in-2010

Parents have paid up ‘$1bn in school fees’
NZ Herald 26 Feb 2012

Wairarapa parents pay schools $2m
Wairarapa Times-Age 1 March 2012
State funding for Wairarapa schools is being propped up by an extra $2.6 million a year in school fees and grants.