School donations in New Zealand by Susan Grimsdell

Schools in New Zealand are rated from 1 to 10, depending on the socio-economic  zone in which they’re located.  Decile 10 applies to wealthy areas and Decile 1 to deprived areas.  The system was introduced in 1995 by the right-wing National Party.

Different packed lunches in different Decile schools

Donations required

Primary and high school education are free here, but almost all schools ask for a donation from parents to fund facilities and amenities not normally supplied. In Decile 10 areas, parents donate heaps, as you can imagine.  In poor areas, donations are a problem for parents who simply don’t have any spare money, because failing to send their child to school with the money makes them feel embarrassed and ashamed.  Also, those schools end up with a far smaller amount to spend on extra benefits for the kids.  Education might be free here, but it’s far from equal. In an attempt to remedy this inequity the present government has offered Deciles 1-7 schools $150 per student per year, as long as they agree to stop asking parents for donations.

Combating inequality

Perhaps, reader, at this point you could stop a moment and guess the reaction of right-wing MPs.  These are the ones who do not turn a hair at the vast and growing inequality in our society, whose guiding principles are in fact the very ones that exacerbate inequality in every area of New Zealand society.  Suddenly, inequity is the very thing they care about.  “Unfair,” they cry over this exclusion of wealthy schools.  “We have to make it fair and equal.  All schools should get it.  Deciles 8-10 are being discriminated against.  What about their human rights!” And so on ad – literally – nauseam.

Luckily, the policy has the provision that to accept the money from the government, the schools have to stop asking for or accepting money from parents.  This has given considerable pause for thought, because parents in high Decile areas typically give far more than $150 a year per child.  Hmmmm – what a dilemma to be faced with! What to do, what to do?   Poor things, doesn’t your heart go out to them? For my part, the new provision represents an equitable approach offering greater fairness all round.

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