by Catherine Delahunty
The Green Party welcomes Labour’s announcement to provide $100 per student to schools who choose not to ask parents for donations. The burden of donations needs to be lifted from parents in a public education system and the lower decile communities and schools just don’t need the pressure.
This policy will see more money going to lower decile schools, which we think will make a substantial difference to children in those schools, but our overall position on school donations is that they shouldn’t be required at all.
The Green Party believes that free education should actually be free.
The fact is, school operations grants are not enough to run a school, in many cases, without donations as well. Relying on parents to come up with the money creates conflict and stigma.
A school may think it’s not shaming a parent by sending a letter asking for payment but if they can’t afford to pay it, parents can feel shamed and embarrassed on that basis alone.
Labour’s policy has been criticised for not addressing the issue for higher decile schools. But they are not forcing schools to take the $100 grant. It’s clearly a targeted response to the needs of schools who have long given up trying to get money from parents and have suffered from the loss of funds ever since.
Under Labour’s plan, higher decile schools will need to have a conversation with their communities about what their choices are. I know these schools spend huge amounts of time and resources trying to raise extra funds, but at least – in most cases – they have choices.
In a recent tour of primary schools in the decile 1 to 4 range I witnessed severe and sustained poverty in communities and schools doing their utmost to help feed and clothe their children. Funding choices in those schools are limited, or non-existent.
It’s good to see Labour acknowledging the role schools have in dealing with these needs, but the Green Party still maintains that the fairest and most rational response to school funding is to make education truly free.
Donations policies have not fostered equity across or within the system, whereas investment by the Government can.