Labour aims to end school donations

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PROMISES: Kieran McAnulty says education should be free.
PROMISES: Kieran McAnulty says education should be free.

Labour says it will provide an annual grant of $100 per student to schools if they stop asking parents for voluntary donations.

Principals spoken to by Wairarapa Times-Age were supportive of the plan.

The Labour candidate for Wairarapa, Kieran McAnulty, said government funding had not kept up with rising expenses, forcing schools to ask parents for donations.

"There was once such as a thing as a free education in this country.

"It is unfair to everyone involved - be it teachers, boards of trustees, parents or children - to require donations in order to run their schools," Mr McAnulty said, adding schools received $97 million in donations in 2012, and cited an average donation to a decile one school of $59 and an average of $278 for decile 10 schools.

"School donations are particularly hard on low-income regions like Wairarapa.

"As we have seen from the recent Census data, Wairarapa incomes are falling behind the cost of living. School donations are adding unnecessary pressure on Wairarapa families. "Under a Labour Government, schools that agree not to solicit donations will be granted $100 per student each year."

Solway Primary School principal Gail Marshall said it would definitely get her vote.

Families understood the need for the voluntary donation, to provide her school with badly needed resources, and she has an 80 per cent uptake which carries them through the year.

But the concept is something she would look at favourably, and she suspected schools with a lower donation uptake would be even happier.

Douglas Park School principal Dick Brown said he would not hold his breath on such a promise, adding: "Like everything else, you'd need to see it come to fruition."

He said it would be good to see happen "but what's being sacrificed to pay for that?

"It's like Politics 101, for every action, there's a reaction."

The voluntary donations system was not a perfect system, but it worked, he said.

Greytown School principal Kevin Mackay said it would result in more money than the school currently got in donations but it needed more thought. It seemed like a one-size-fits-all approach when every school's needs were different, he said.

"That's the reason there are deciles."

South End School principal Alastair Kay said: "I don't see why we wouldn't support that.

"It would guarantee us income and it is certainly a step up from what we have now.

"The donation scheme is dependent on families being able to afford it. Many can't and we totally respect that."

He said that education was meant to be free so the school would support anything that would make that a reality for families.

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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