Parents have paid over $1b in fees over the past four years to prop up state school budgets, Family First NZ has claimed.
According to information gained under the Official Information Act, the total amount of school voluntary donations or fees actually paid by families in the last four years has been $234m (2007), $247m (2008), $272m (2009), and $266m (2010) - totalling $1.02b.
Bob McCoskrie, 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.
"This comes on top of school stationery demands, uniform costs, course fees, travel - no wonder families are under so much financial pressure at the moment.
"We don't see any evidence that school fees are being used to fund lavish education facilities, luxurious swimming pools, or special perks for teachers or students.
Some schools would greatly struggle without these voluntary donations. And these amounts don't include the huge amount of fundraising and sweat labour performed by parents to help fund schools."
Figures also showed that parents in low socio-economic areas are also paying significant amounts. An analysis of the figures by Family First show that parents of children in decile 1 schools in the Manukau area have contributed $2.5m in fees over the past six years. Parents of secondary school in South Auckland have contributed almost $4.5m over the past six years.