Billion dollar education bull

It must be ‘scare the parent’ time of year.

Not only do they have to pay for new or replacement uniforms for their children, hang out for the end of the holidays and fork out for books and everything else their children are required to have, they are also bombarded by billion dollar bull.

Stuff: ‘Free’ education cost set to mount to more than $1 billion

The price of a free school education will soar to record heights this year.

Official figures show “voluntary donations” from parents and others will this year have collectively provided more than $1 billion to bankroll schools since 2000.

The article doesn’t actually say what the figure was for last year nor what it is expected to be this year, instead quoting a debatable (* According to the Education Ministry, income and expenditure items may not have been categorised consistently between schools or within the same school over time) total covering fifteen years, which is pretty much meaningless.

Commentators have described that as a watershed figure with some arguing New Zealand’s “free education” system is broken.


Patrick Walsh of the Principals Association of New Zealand and principal of John Paul College said the notion of a free education should be abandoned.

“I think the basic principle is you undertake a study … of what it costs to actually run a school, all the operational costs including staffing, and you either fund it to the level it actually costs, or you say the pie isn’t big enough to support that and we will now allow schools to charge parents for some of the services.”

This would legitimise what is currently happening, as the donations were essential to give students a high quality of education, he said.

Principals want more more, so they are lobbyists rather than commentators.

Labour leader Andrew Little wants voluntary donations scrapped altogether, with the government prioritising education to meet any shortfall.

The gradual shift to schools depending on parents paying donations was “not right”, he said.

Labour is a party with close associations with educator groups.

But David Seymour, ACT Party leader and education under-secretary, said while some were frustrated at the current funding system, looking at the alternatives showed it was actually a good system.

An alternative political view.

Labour’s idea to scrap parent funding made no sense, he said.

“They haven’t thought through the practicalities for one moment. What they’re talking about is effectively a ban on parents giving extra money to their school to do extra activities.”

A Ministerial/political view.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said school fundraising and donations were voluntary and there were no plans to change that.

No sign of ‘commentators’. It looks like an early year political play.

Then, possibly in response to criticism of the Stuff article, came the Herald with Parents paid $161m for children’s ‘free education’.

Parents paid $161.6 million towards their children’s “free education” in 2014. Of that, $61.4m was spent in Auckland.

New numbers obtained by the Herald on Sunday reveal mums and dads are giving more and more money to schools every year.

Voluntary donations are expected to top the $1 billion mark when school goes back in a few weeks’ time.

There’s that $1 billion number again. Where has that come from?

Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins today branded “free” education a joke.

“Parents and other donors are propping up our schools to the tune of $1 billion with the country’s wealthiest schools receiving the bulk of the money.”

Mr Hipkins said when schools couldn’t deliver the basics without donations it was time to sit up and take note.

No explanation here that the $1 billion is a 15 year accumulative total. Has Hipkins promoted the $1 billion bull to media?

PPTA president Angela Roberts, says she is “gobsmacked” by the sheer amounts some schools are receiving and the situation shows Kiwi kids are not on a level playing field when it comes to the right to a free education. It must be addressed in an upcoming ministry funding review, Roberts said.

“Some of those schools’ numbers are hard to comprehend. There is such inequality depending on where in the country a student is or how much money their parents make,” Roberts said.

“Is it a level playing field? Of course not. You only have to look at the resources some high decile schools have access to and a lot of it’s for bells and whistles – maybe a trip to Argentina for the polo team.

“Meanwhile, some students are going to school without breakfast and are from very vulnerable families. They’re the ones who need more funding but the way the system works, it’s only exacerbating problems like this.”

So does the PPTA want to ‘level the playing field’ by banning donations?

Of course they want more money given to all schools. Lower decile schools already get extra funding.

“The review is considering all aspects of school resourcing,” said Andrea Schollmann, head of education system policy at the Ministry of Education.

Schollmann also said lower-decile schools benefit from substantial extra government funding to help overcome “barriers faced by students from lower socio-economic communities, with the ministry providing lower-decile schools extra funding of $115m per year”.

But never enough for the PPTA or for Labour (when they are in Opposition).

But Roberts said that’s not enough.

“It’s not going to fix the imbalance when some families are living out of a car,” she said. “There is no way their children can still get access to richer opportunities, the bells and whistles that some schools enjoy.”

What do they want to do? Heavily tax donations to ‘rich’ schools and redistribute that to poorer schools?

Or ban donations so parents can’t improve their children’s education, and get the Government to give more funds to poor schools? It’s not clear. This sounds like a general political play.

There is one multi-billion dollar total given:

The Government was set to invest $10.8 billion in early childhood, primary and secondary education, more than the combined budget for police, defence, roads and foreign affairs.

That’s a lot – per year – but never enough.

At the same time the education funding system was under a far-reaching review that was examining all types of funding, including grants, staffing and property.

Is that what Hipkins and the PPTA and the Principals Association of New Zealand are lobbying for?

All most parents will be concerned about at this time of year is getting uniforms sorted for their kids and getting them back to school as the holidays wear them down.

The billion dollars is just meaningless bull.

Leave a comment


  1. Pantsdownbrown

     /  22nd January 2016

    The problem for Labour and its cronies is that in making out that state schools are expensive (need more govt funding) they are effectively proving that charter schools are far cheaper, especially when you combine the low start up cost they have in relation to creating a new state school.

    • Blazer

       /  22nd January 2016

      The Charter school model is failing all over the world…is it not?

      • Pantsdownbrown

         /  22nd January 2016


        • Pantsdownbrown

           /  22nd January 2016

          In most studies charter schools on average do no better than state schools HOWEVER it is shown in these same studies that poorer kids (those in ‘poverty’) do much better in a charter school – the same group of kids the NZL trial is targeting. Also charter schools are far cheaper to start-up than an equivalent state school.

          I always find it amusing that the opposition are even against ‘trialling’ charter schools – if they are so bad won’t they just perform poorly in a trial and then be shelved?

          Make no mistake about it – the opposition to charter schools (I thought they wanted to improve those kids in poverty?) is purely to protect the unionisation of teachers, not about what might be better for the kids.

          • Blazer

             /  22nd January 2016

            silly me,I thought it was about privatising profit!

            • The truly unfortunate thing may be that children come last in both “education” models?

              The more educational models the better in my opinion. There are several in NZ I believe. Steiner? Correspondence? Home Schooling? Charter? State?

              All State controlled, of course, all compulsory and coerced. Why those with anarcho-capitalist tendencies aren’t absolutely “up in arms” about this I’ll never understand.

              IMHO Charter Schools are mostly a way of circumventing “secular” education; a way of re-introducing Religious Schools. Are Muslim ones permitted?

              I remember the days of scandal around the Alternative School in Mt Eden, which I was slightly too old to go to unfortunately. I was perfect alternative school material. A subsequent friend of mine, now deceased, taught there while it lasted. Great guy, great educator.

              I also regret not transferring out of Auckland Grammar to somewhere like Green Bay High School, which was ‘radical’ in those days, and which I could have done had I set up the ‘behavioural’ circumstances to get expelled.

              What worries me most is that NZ’s education system is looking to America’s for “guidance” and future direction. To paraphrase Timothy Leary, New Zealand seeking to be like the United States is for us to lack ambition.

              “McKinsey & Company reports that closing the educational achievement gap between the United States and nations such as Finland and Korea would have increased US GDP by 9-to-16% in 2008.

              Narrowing the gap between white students and black and Hispanic students would have added another 2-4% GDP, while closing the gap between poor and other students would have yielded a 3-to-5% increase in GDP, and that of under-performing states and the rest of the nation another 3-to-5% GDP. In sum, McKinsey’s report suggests, “These educational gaps impose on the United States the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession.” – Wiki



            • kittycatkin

               /  22nd January 2016

              Every year, it seems also that one or both of the main channels will come up with an an appalling amount that is supposedly the annual cost ot sending achild to school. They take the most expensive examples of everything, from computers to Duraseal (the small rolls of this with licensed characters or fancy prints as opposed to the large rolls of clear which are a fraction of this) and so on. This total is then often multipiled by 12 or 13….which is nonsensical. I wonder how many parents buy everything new each year, from uniform to computers ? When I was at school, the only things that absolutely had to be new were things like stationery. We weren’t so fond of our uniforms that we wanted these new every year-heaven forbid, as new uniforms meant that the wearer was probably a third former (or turd, as they were called) and nobody wanted to look like a turd.

        • kittycatkin

           /  22nd January 2016

          It is surely obvious that anything free ( that costs money that is not paid by the recipient) is paid for by someone-I don’t know why this is being presented as new and news. A free sample is paid for by the company. It defies logic that any adult wouldn’t know that if it’s free to them, it’s paid for by someone else.

  2. Envy. Pure and simple. And timed to coincide with the Oxfam annual wailing on “poverty”.

    The Billion dollars unqualified with a time period, is the big scary fact to upset trendy lefties fretting over their better life outcomes and relative affluence. And the media just repeating the number supplied, without stating the fact it was a cumulative number over 15 years, reveals it was intended as another of those lies if repeated enough will be believed.

    The best schools have richer parents and they are willing to throw dollars in for rowing, trips abroad, tablets, computer studies rooms etc etc for little Tarquin and Jemima. Nice to have stuff but not important to actual learning

    What is important is reading, writing, maths [in its various flavours] and LOGICAL thinking. Those are the basis for further enquiry which is what we should be teaching out kids. Setting them up to investigate, understand and decide on their own how the world is and works.

    Computers aren’t necessary – you can pick that up at any stage if you want – nice to haves but not imperative

    DISCLAIMER: I paid largeish [1500-2200 dollar p.a.] “donations” for my sons education at an integrated Steiner school. Paid for all the hippie weirdness which has resulted in his moderate scholastic capabilities and high EQ capabilities

  3. Blazer

     /  22nd January 2016

    Bishop’ Tamaki is all for it as well!

    • Pantsdownbrown

       /  22nd January 2016

      If Tamaki offered to throw a bit of money to the opposition parties like Dotcom did prior to the last election then the left would be flocking to his mansion to do whatever he wanted………

  4. kittycatkin

     /  22nd January 2016

    Oxfam does not wail about poverty, it raises funds and does something. Its money is not spent in NZ. I don’t know who you’re thinking of, but it’s not Oxfam which concentrates on countries where there is real poverty, and they don’t have a special time of year for this.

    • Pantsdownbrown

       /  22nd January 2016

      Oxfam, like Greenpeace, started off with the right idea but over time outside interests have taken it over and turned it into a corporate beast for hire to the highest bidder.

      • kittycatkin

         /  22nd January 2016

        I disagree, but can’t be bothered having an interminable debate about it.


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