Each year debate arises about school donations.
This is usually followed by the observation that "free education" no longer exists.
Our story story on school donations today shows many parents - whether because of financial constraints or as a matter of principle - are choosing not to pay school donations.
The Bay of Plenty Times surveyed high schools in the region to find out how many parents were paying donations and the percentage of parents paying fees varied from 35 per cent at Katikati College to almost 100 per cent at Bethlehem College. The cost of school donations ranged from $80 to $1200.
Tauranga Budget Advisory manager Diane Bruin says many parents are struggling to cover the basic costs of schooling, let alone donations.
This might be the case but there is a big difference between those who cannot afford to pay and those who choose not to.
Most people understand that a struggling family will choose to put food on the table before paying a school donation.
However, those who choose not to pay should not forget that education in the country does, in fact, remain free.
Parents are not being asked to pay the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to educate a child each year.
Donations are sought to cover things that complement education: trips, vehicle rentals for sports teams, up-to-date technology or school camps. If a student benefits from these extras, then there should be some obligation for a parent to pay the donation if they can afford to do so.
Paul Drummond, the immediate past president of the Principals' Federation, says schools independently set school donation amounts. He points out that no school is collecting donations to make money and that the costs they cover are becoming more necessary rather than discretionary.
It is important that schools be realistic about their spending.
Parents want the best educational opportunities for their children but schools also need to be careful not to extend so far that their demands become excessive.