At midnight tonight submissions will close on the Education (School Donations) Amendment Bill with a lot of parents and schools not having their chance to be heard, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The Government have rushed this legislation and not given schools and parents enough time to have their say,” says Nikki. “This Bill has the potential to have a large impact on parents and schools and there is no credible reason for such a short process.
“The Minister of Education’s answer during estimates hearings this week that this is a ‘short and very simple Bill’ is disappointing, and does not demonstrate an understanding of the level of potential impact to schools, and the hundreds of thousands of parents who are asked for donations.”
The Education (School Donations) Amendment Bill is intended to reduce the widespread expectation that parents should pay voluntary contributions to schools for their child’s education. It was introduced into the House of Representatives by the Hon Chris Hipkins on May 30 2019. The bill, which amends the Education Act 1989, had its First Reading on May 30, and was referred to the Education and Workforce Committee. Submissions are due today June 16, and a report is due on August 19, 2019.
“It instead appears the reason they don’t want a full Select Committee process is because this is another example of the Government failing to deliver on its promises,” says Nikki.
“Due to the tight timeframes the Select Committee’s only attempt to address the Bill was by trying to communicate directly with all schools mid-way through this week.”
The Bill supports the school donations scheme announced as part of the Budget 2019 package. From the 2020 school year, Decile 1-7 state and state-integrated schools will be able to choose to receive a $150 per student, per year payment if they agree not to ask parents and caregivers for donations.
Although school donations are voluntary many families can feel under pressure to pay them and this can place pressure on household budgets. This initiative is designed to alleviate that pressure and expectation. It also recognises that Decile 1-7 schools can find it difficult to raise funds from their communities.
The Bill creates a new category of grants called discretionary grants; provides that the Minister of Education may pay discretionary grants to boards subject to the condition that a board does not solicit voluntary payments from parents, and any other condition determined by the Minister; and enables funding provided as discretionary grants to be effectively recovered from boards that have failed to comply with the conditions of that funding.
The Bill enables the Minister to pay donations scheme funding as a discretionary grant with conditions attached. The main condition is that boards of trustees agree to stop asking parents for voluntary payments, and the Bill enables the Minister to recover funding paid under the school donations scheme if boards then request voluntary payments from parents. The mechanism enabling funds to be recovered is intended to give boards of trustees a strong incentive to ensure they understand and comply with the scheme rules once they opt in for the $150 per student per year payments.
“Labour promised all schools would be incentivised to end school donations,” says Nikki. “Their donations policy instead has been restricted to deciles 1-7 and will leave out 700 schools. There are a number of upset schools who are going to be tens of thousands of dollars disadvantaged.
“We have already heard a number of schools speak out publicly around the inequality of the policy with many disadvantaged families in schools with high decile ratings.
“This Bill will inevitably raise wider issues around Government policies related to what schools should or should not be charging or fundraising for. I encourage you to make a submission on this important Bill before they close.”
To make a submission on the Bill click here