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Thread: Schools go too far in bid for cash

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    Default Schools go too far in bid for cash

    Schools go too far in bid for cash
    By CATHERINE WOULFE - Sunday Star Times
    Last updated 05:00 04/10/2009

    Cash-strapped schools are ripping parents off by making them pay more than they legally have to for their children's education.

    In the past 20 months alone, Education Review Office (ERO) inspectors have caught 24 primary, intermediate and secondary schools asking for payments that they believe overstep what schools are allowed to charge.

    Four are state-integrated (which are partly government-funded, but often ask for large donations on top of compulsory fees) and 20 are state schools, which should only ask for a donation, and charge fees for certain non-curriculum or take-home activities (such as school camps or ingredients for cooking classes).

    Inspectors found:

    Eleven schools called donations "fees" or "term payments", or did not make it clear that donations were voluntary.

    Nine schools charged a photocopying or paper fee.

    Four were making parents pay for their children's access to the curriculum, a fifth was charging for extra tuition in maths and classes for gifted and talented children (in school time).

    One was charging for internet access, another for overdue library books.

    Three schools were charging extra for enrolment in digital classrooms, where children work on laptops rather than using pens and paper.

    But the Education Ministry has admitted it is powerless to punish any of the schools – because although the law entitles every child aged five to 19 to a free education, it does not set out specific rules about what schools can and cannot charge for.

    But ministry guidelines say that state and state-integrated schools must make it clear that donations are voluntary, and must not charge for anything used to deliver the curriculum, such as photocopying, paper or internet access.

    But schools say they have to raise the extra cash because they do not receive enough government funding. Yesterday it was revealed that schools raised more than $700 million in the community in the last year, with 150 of the country's schools raising $1m each.

    Lorraine Kerr, president of the New Zealand School Trustees Association, said every year some schools were "rapped over the knuckles" for charging for things they were not meant to, but they continued to push for money from parents because they did not receive enough state funding.

    "Trying to get money out of the community by whatever means – by calling a payment whatever name – is a board's desperate way of actually trying to top up that inadequacy ... You have to feel sorry for the schools."

    Kerr pointed to research by the association, which is tracking how much money schools spend compared to what they get from the government. One school overspent by 11% in 2005 and by 2007 that had leapt to 42%. That year, ministry figures showed schools raised $500m, on top of government funding, to keep themselves afloat. Last year, the amount raised jumped to $712m.

    "The amount of money that's going on the curriculum is becoming less and less because of all the other things that need attention," Kerr said.

    She was concerned to hear schools were charging for access to digital classes and said "it's almost creating an exclusive club – state and state-integrated schools are for every child".

    Education Minister Anne Tolley told the Sunday Star-Times that New Zealand has more than 2500 schools, and only a "very small number" were charging inappropriately. "It's not a question of punishing ... We need to be able to trust these schools won't do it again once their error has been made clear to them. We also have to ensure that the ministry keeps giving schools the message that this behaviour is unacceptable, as boards of trustees are constantly changing."

    Tolley said many parents were willing and able to pay donations but "schools have to make it clear to parents that donations are voluntary".

    "They cannot force parents into providing these donations ... I am not prepared to condone excessive or misleading demands made by schools to parents, and I'm concerned about any unacceptable financial practices that come to my attention."

    Tolley made a similar statement in June, when it was revealed that some schools had hired debt collectors to chase parents for donations.

    And in July, the minister waded into a fees stoush between state-integrated Wairarapa school Rathkeale College and mother Karen Bock, after the school suggested Bock could use money from the future sale of her house to cover the $13,000 voluntary payment she owed.

    Tolley called this "appalling" and ordered an inquiry. Recently, she met school representatives and said she "made it clear to them, in no uncertain terms, that what they did was wrong."

    Parents are advised to contact their school's board of trustees if they thought they were being over-charged. After that, a complaint could be made to the Education Ministry.

    WEBLINKS: PARENTS can visit Team-Up or YouthLaw for more information on school fees.

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    Mother Bear

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    Minister: Schools can't force parents to pay donations
    4:00AM Monday Oct 05, 2009

    Schools must make it clear to parents that donations are voluntary, says Education Minister Anne Tolley.

    The Weekend Herald revealed that parents and communities propped up schools throughout the country to the tune of $700 million last year.

    And 24 schools have been caught by the Education Review Office making them pay more than they legally have to for their children's education.

    Mrs Tolley said schools could not force parents into providing these donations to boost their state funding.

    "I am not prepared to condone excessive or misleading demands made by schools to parents, and I'm concerned about any unacceptable financial practices that come to my attention," she said.

    More here.
    Mother Bear

    Try to bloom wherever you are planted.

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