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The Dash for Cash Continues: The Election Year Money Scramble

Stuart Middleton


25 July 2017


As money continues to be tossed around, the latest fist-full seems almost to have been targeted.

The suggestion that schools would get a cash payment if they opted not to ask parents for funds on the face of it, an intriguing and innovative idea aimed at trying to equalise the current iniquitous situation that results from demanding payments from parents.

Of course, I exaggerate. They do not demand money. Instead we have the wonderfully beatific sight of school communities rising as one in a sense of duty to make an exorbitant and, of course unsolicited, donation to the school.  Driven by that unifying inner urge that drives lemmings to the cliff’s edge, bargain hunters to Smith and Caughey’s Sale, and crowds to rugby matches, they are united in a common cause. And the schools smile as they count the cash.

Well, only some schools. Those who are already able to ask and ask and ask parents to pay for this and that and the other thing, all in the knowledge that if things get tough the Old Boys and Girls will rally round. But there are a lot of schools who serve communities that cannot contribute cash.

But wait! If the going rate for not paying school fees if to be a threshold of $120k then obviously schools that collect less will opt into the scheme and those who collect more will simple carry on.

Now, I must say that the schools that collect less will be very happy and so they should be. It a few years since I was in a school but we had to work hard to get a fraction of this and to get more would have been glorious – what might seem like a little when compared to the winnings of the rich state schools would have been riches indeed. So at least some punters will be happy. And it almost seems as if it was addressing equity.  But is it really.

The schools that have little difficulty in collecting cash will exceed $120k by far. It won’t matter to them that some other schools are now ahead of where they once were – they stay right out in front.

Now what might be fairer would be for a government to increase school funding on some fair and equitable basis, probably roll-related (which also favours the rich schools but it does have an equitable look to it) and to apply the formula across all schools.  Then they should deduct from that total funding to a school the amount that that school community has contributed. It was always a basic tenet of the welfare state that those who could pay, should pay.

This is a somewhat frivolous suggestion because some things never change and one of those things is that there will be rich schools and schools that will have to be careful within tight and small  budgets. It all contributes to the social inequities of New Zealand schools but who would want to have the success of the Scandinavian schools which manage social equity between school if it has to come at the cost of privilege?

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