Monday, February 27, 2012

Parents donate $250 million annually to state schools

I found this article long overdue. It was on STUFF in the weekend and really presents more questions than provides answers. It also goes hand in hand with my previous post about how NZ operates a super efficient education system based on government investment in education relative to our very high student performance. This is presented through an OECD/PISA report showing how much our government spent (considerably less) in comparison to our main reference nations - US, UK and Australia.

The article discusses the cost of technology in schools which is expensive to maintain and sustain continuity and yet schools receive very little financial support in this regard. It would be safe to say that it is the schools, and their Boards of Trustees who have modernized schools through providing technology for 21st century learning, while countries such as Australia, US and Canada lead the way in investing technology into schools for better learning. It is the parents fundraising that provides the necessary funds in NZ!

Schools run along a  knife edge about how much they can charge for a donation. Too much and you get a backlash, too little you can't make a tangible difference. When the minister says 'parents have always - and will always - need to pick up some cost' doesn't really fall within the Education Act. In reality though these questions fall back onto the Board of Trustees to choose between 3 very expensive categories which fall outside the operational grant given to schools by the Ministry of Education to meet operational costs. They have to choose between -

  1. Additional teachers to improve or enhance learning opportunities for children.
  2. Top up funding for students with special needs or learning who are between 30%-50% underfunded 9or receive no funding)
  3. Technology - keeping up with the new and replacing the old technology.
It is not easy being on the Board - they often have to make harsh calls, often feeling hamstrung about meeting their vision and goals within the funds that are available.

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