June 1, 2010

When a Donation becomes a Demand Notice

A southerly swept through new Zealand this afternoon which meant the curtains were ceremoniously pulled shut, the heaters flicked on and, even thought I was still shivering, something made my blood boil. It was a demand notice from my daughter's school. There was no mistaking it as a demand. My poor kid handed the envelope to me this afternoon, all frazzled and uptight: "This is serious Mum, real serious." Now I knew it was before she even said anything cause I usually get school notices months after the fact or they're found during one of those rare times I clean her room/

Not this one. This was hand delivered by a child who'd been told, in no uncertain terms, to hand this to me the minute she got home, and she knew what it was even though the contents had been  tightly concealed with about a tonne of glue and three staples. And just in case there was any mistake, a bright red rubber stamp was thumped in the middle of this 'statement' saying THIS ACCOUNT IS NOW OVERDUE. 

Account? It's a bloody donation! Says it, right there, under 'item.' Well, all I have to say is, at least they didn't add GST to this 'donation.' Look, I know schools are underfunded by Government and that if any of those endless chocolate bar fund raising schemes are anything to go by, they really do need to find another way to finance the education of New Zealand's children. So why not call it what it is - a bloody bill? Why stand under that glorious umbrella, skiting to the world that we, here in New Zealand, provide free education when, in fact, that's a big fat lie. 

Now that my daughter is at Intermediate, (Middle school) she also has to choose options to study. It's a step up from Primary. An opportunity for kids to start experimenting with their individuality and, with any luck, find something that inspires them enough to see that subject through to a professional accreditation and become one of those tax payers we're all suppose to aspire towards. 

But here's the catch. Not one of those options were free. They were additional costs to that wee donation we've already talked about. So what happens to the family struggling to pay the donation and then, what?, have to tell their kid they can't afford any of the subjects offered to other students? What happens to those children? Do they just get told to sit in some classroom with a book while others feed their passions? And how is that suppose to ensure these kids grow up to find careers as opposed to low paying jobs where they too, in the future, will sweat bricks over their own inability to finance even the basic educational costs for their kids? What a vicious circle. 

What infuriates me is the imposition this puts on the kids. It goes without saying that the parents are stressed over this but what does that segregation, that financial discrimination, do a child's self esteem? 

Now thanks to Mike on my Facebook (bless his cotton socks) he looked into this wee matter and came across the following "interesting facts:" 
  • Section 3 of the Education Act 1989 states that;
  • ... every person who is not a foreign student is entitled to free enrolment and free education at any state school during the period beginning on the person's 5th birthday and ending on the 1st day of January after the person's 19th birthday.
  • This means that parents do not have to pay for things such as the cost of tuition or materials used in the provision of the curriculum, the cost of heat, lighting or water, the cost of providing information about enrolling at the school, interviews when parents are seeking to enrol students at a school.
  • The Government provides funding in the form of operational grants and supplementary grants to pay for the running of schools and the delivery of the curriculum, so schools may only charge parents for things that fall outside of the curriculum. 
Well now that's interesting. Check out the curriculum because even the school camp can be covered albeit there may be an additional cost for food and transport, it's a lot less than that initial "fee," and for those who are struggling and might have to take their child out of the camp (or any other fee paying activity) the school must provide an "appropriate alternative." 


  1. This from anon friend:

    Had the demend from XXXXXX College. They sent out a reminder a month later then sent another in April. In may came a letter demanding payment or Miss 11's education would be compromised. I sent the letter back in the envelope it came in with "Return to sender" on the front. Inside was a note explaining that I will donate when I have money available to donate. I then quoted the Education Act, the Crimes Act pertaining to blackmail as a criminal act and the Harassment Act. The last line of the letter stated "Pull your heads in or I will invoke my legal right to refuse to donate!"
    Havnt heard back since!

  2. FB ANON
    Our local high school only gives Yearbooks to those who have paid their school 'donation', so we're paying our fees weekly over the year...a coupla dollars a week.....which I could buy 3 litres of milk with.....humphh. I wrote to the school and they replied that they were happy with this system( which effectively rewards those children with wealthier parents) as an incentive for parents to pay.....double humpphh.

  3. FB ANON
    I too approached my kids school way back. Talked to prinical etc. It worked. I was pushy in those days. Plus I took my brother who is huge - he dressed up in a flash suit and stuff. shouldnt have come to that but it did. You go for it Jax.

  4. FB ANON
    Oh I so know what you mean, it is mean to be a 'donation' but you get demand notices!!!!! Also they hound the child too and let them know that Mum hasn't paid it yet, how fucken rude is that! As you say WTF. I have paid it every year but this year things are really tight, esp when they asked for $260.00 for school camp, $80 for stationery, $55 for syndicate term fees & $45 for office fees, well they can go jump! All you need to do is phone the school and say due to finances you wont be paying it, the letters then stop. J xx ♥

  5. FB ANon
    Don't forget you only have to pay the activity fees, the other school fee is optional. My daughter has been inundated with demands for money for this that and the other at the kid's schools, don't they realize there are a lot of parents on benefits and in low paid work. I get so angry at all the fees, at the beginning of the year there was so much expense, daughter took out a loan to pay it all. There are two school trips coming up soon and they are worth hundreds of dollars and we are trying to save to send the first kid to college next year. It really does suck.

    I feel one of your blogs coming on Jacquie.

  6. FB:
    I wrote a letter to the College saying that it was unfair to ban the Girls from activities just because i couldnt afford to pay the fees etc... why should they be punished for my failings?... and made an appointment to see Principal a week after... never really had much trouble after that meeting.. (even i was a bit scared of me back then tho,,,)

  7. FB:
    Everyone in this country is entitled to a free eduction, despite what fees and levies schools impose on parents for "other" activities. If schools regularly have a shortfall in Government funding, apply for more each financial year to cover what the less fortunate can't pay.

  8. FB:
    i was told at that time that they had a small fund towards helping out some families.... hmmmmmm
    i remember making some flippant remark that if circumstances changed and it didnt deprive us of necessary requirement for every day living and ongoing expenses , then i might consider to start paying such fees for the girls...

  9. FB:
    Dear School, while searching throught the apple box recently, I found a couple of rotten apples I'd like to throw your way namely school fees and school donations....blah blah...lol

  10. FB:
    I googled..and found this.."School Fees" is a term that the general public of New Zealand most commonly used to describe a request from schools to parents or guardians for a donation (usually annual) to their child's school.

    Although this payment is entirely voluntary, some school boards use terms such as "Activity Fees", "School Levy" or "Parental Contribution" to coerce payment from parents. The Ministry of Education suggests that terms that imply that payment of the sum is compulsory should not be used, particularly "fee" or "levy". Instead, the term "School Donation" is suggested.

  11. Not to mention, if it says Fee or Levy instead of Donation you can't claim 1/3 of it back at the end of the Tax Year with your other donation rebates. It's such a joke how much schools cost these days.


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