Northland schools receive more than $4 million a year in donations and fundraising.
New Ministry of Education data show $2,058,445 was paid in school donations in the region in 2014. Schools gained a further $2,041,186 through fundraising. The previous year, schools received $1,974,042 in donations and $2,389,600 in fundraising.
Donations are received from many sources, including parents, and are needed because funding didn't cover basic operational costs, especially in higher decile schools.
Whangarei Girls' High School principal Anne Cooper said the school asked for a $100 donation per single student or $150 for two or more students in the same family. She said the requested amount hadn't changed in recent years and the contributions allowed the school to provide things it wouldn't be able to afford from its operation grant.
That included facilities such as a dance studio and whare, sports and cultural uniforms, the school magazine and extra technology for students. Ms Cooper said students were not disadvantaged if they couldn't afford to pay the donation.
Nationwide, donations and fundraising went up $1.2m from 2013 to 2014, reaching $161.6m, according to ministry figures.
New Zealand Principals' Federation national president Iain Taylor said money from donations paid for swimming programmes, IT devices, school signage and beautification of grounds and buildings. It also covered security systems, fencing, sports equipment, art and craft materials, food, textile and engineering technology, and subsidised camps and trips.
"It is these programmes that create positive memories for kids. These activities are essential for a child to grow up as an independent, self-sufficient, responsible participating citizen with a sense of respect for society and the environment and for the property of others."
Mr Taylor said many schools had become reliant on donations because funding was not covering their basic operational costs, especially in higher decile schools. Lower decile schools sometimes didn't even ask for donations because they knew the families in their communities could hardly meet survival needs.
The Government could also withdraw funding from those schools, undermining every child's right to a free quality public education, said Mr Taylor.