Schools name payers
School donations are a drag on family finances but as kids’ education trumps almost every other spending priority, it’s something most parents bear in good heart.
We live in a country where education isn’t really free, whatever politicians want you to believe.
Collectively we have to chip in more than $250 million in school donations each year.
Schools need the money but those donations can leave a fairly decent hole in a family’s income.
Two kids can result in a donation of more than $600.
That’s a lot of money for people already forking out a chunk of their income in tax, rates and feeding their children.
It’s the kind of money that leads grandparents to chip in and some parents having to organise instalment payments because not everybody can afford to pay a lump sum.
Part of the reason the donations are so large is there are many non-givers.
Schools set their budgets and the dollar amount of the donation based on an assumed number of payees.
Once a year at donation time we, the givers, find ourselves growling because we are subsidising non-payers’ kids. As givers, we console ourselves in the certain knowledge that some can’t afford to pay but we know some just won’t because there is no sanction for not paying.
But that’s all changed at my daughter’s school in Auckland.
In a bid to lift donations to the 80 per cent payment level needed for the school to provide the education it wants to give our kids, the board of trustees last week sent out a ‘‘recognition list’’ to thank us givers for giving.
At least that’s what they say it was for.
I’m sure the thanks for parting with our hard-earned lucre is genuinely meant but the real aim when the policy was announced at donation time was to lift donations to the target 80 per cent and for the first time the school managed that.
Why? Shame-avoidance is clearly playing a part. Who would want to be left off the list?
But I think there is another reason too: It’s easier to pay when you are not trapped into effectively overpaying to benefit others.
I’ve been interested in this issue for several years after being asked for my advice by a different school on how to lift donation rates.
The ‘‘thanking’’ idea was my first contribution to the discussion that ensued.
Was I being insensitive for exposing those who couldn’t pay to shame? Maybe but my daughter’s school will put parents on the list if they make partial donations so only those who would contribute not a red cent would be left off the list.
Some will claim the privacy rights of those not named are being breached although this seems to negate the givers’ right to be publicly thanked.
Laws like those in the Privacy Act can produce outcomes which at times stifle the freedoms of the many for the benefit of the few.
But when I got the list (after checking to see who was not on it), I felt a sense of pleasure that the school was not taking my donations for granted.