Schools name pay­ers

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

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.

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