PHOTO/FILE

Many parents’ donation burden about to be alleviated
Removing the stigma of not donating

ELI HILL
eli.hill@age.co.nz

Some Wairarapa schools stand to receive tens of thousands of dollars more a year under a proposed government funding scheme, which would free parents from the burden of ‘voluntary donations’.

The government announced plans in the Budget to pay $150 a year per child to all schools in deciles one to seven that agreed to stop asking for parental donations.

In Wairarapa, almost two-thirds of families with school-aged children would no longer have to pay school donations from next year, if schools took up the long-signalled government offer.

Some schools could look forward to a massive increase in funding.

Masterton Primary School could receive $45,000 a year based on its 300-pupil roll – it receives about $2000 a year in donations, based on $50 per family per year.

Some school leaders are wary of the fine print in the offer and whether the $150 would be expected to cover certain extracurricular activities.

While Education Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed that schools will be able to charge for camps, the exact rules around this are still being decided.

Other principals argue that the offer should be extended to all schools that need the funds rather than being based on the decile system.

Masterton Primary School principal Sue Walters said the government’s offer had been discussed at the last board of trustees meeting and a decision would be made at the next meeting.

“One of the reasons that the decision was deferred at the last board of trustees meeting was that we didn’t feel as if we had enough information.”

Solway School principal Mark Bridges estimated the 231-pupil school and its families would be around $20,000 better off because of the offer.

“As a decile six school we are piggy in the middle. We do not get considerable extra government funding like decile one to four schools, but our families are not wealthy enough to ask for large donations either.

“The biggest winners will be the children of our average hard-working families struggling to pay mortgages and meet the rent.”

The school asks for $90 to $110 a pupil per year, depending on the number of pupils a family has at school, with around 60 per cent of donations paid.

Kuranui College board chairwoman Belinda Cordwell said the board would decide whether to take up the offer at this month’s board meeting.

The 460-pupil college asks for a $150 per student donation, or $250 for two or more students in the same family. Donation uptake is 50 to 60 per cent.

The offer could have the school double the amount it was earning from donations.

“The government donation scheme is another step towards equity in education, in so far as a college with a 50 to 60 per cent donation uptake [like Kuranui] is not disadvantaged relative to a college with a higher donation uptake,” Cordwell said.

Lakeview principal Tim Nelson said his initial thoughts on the changes were “very positive”, but the school would like to see the fine print around the contribution.

Lakeview has 420 pupils and asks for donations of $50 per pupil. Approximately half of families had contributed.

Whareama School principal Darren Kerr said the school would be taking up the government’s offer.

“It is a system that will see more income for us to use on students and makes the need for voluntary payments a thing of the past.

“It also will remove the stigma for parents who cannot afford to pay the donation.”

Previously the 52-pupil school had asked for $25 a term per child and had a maximum charge of three children, with around 80 per cent of donations paid.

South End School principal Clare Crawford will also be taking up the government’s offer. The school has a voluntary donation of $50 per child and the school’s current roll is 156 pupils.

Gladstone School principal Belinda Bunny was disappointed the decile nine school would not benefit from the offer.

“It is a shame that the government has opted to roll out the donation funding for lower decile schools. Many higher decile schools have families who opt not to pay donations and this impacts on what we have to allocate on curriculum teaching and learning.”

Gladstone, with 150 pupils, has a suggested donation of $15 a child per term and has approximately 70 per cent of families paying.

Douglas Park School principal Gareth Sinton said the decile system was a very blunt tool to use for funding.

“I don’t agree that only decile one to seven should qualify – this should be available to any school community who think it would benefit them.”

The decile five 349-pupil school asks for $50 a child and has 40-50 per cent of donations paid.

While the decision on whether to take up the government’s offer was for the board to decide, Sinton said the option looked attractive.

“I appreciate any further financial support from the government for education. The money schools get is not enough to be able to do all that we would like for our kids, this extra enables more and relieves some financial pressure for families.”

Rathkeale College [292 boys] and St Matthew’s Collegiate School [304 girls] are both decile nine schools and therefore they do not qualify.

Wairarapa College, a decile six school, could not be reached for comment.

Submissions on the Education Amendment Bill closed in June. The next stage of the process is a report due from the Education and Workforce Committee next Monday.