Schools Warned not to Set Debt Collectors on Families that Don’t Pay ‘Voluntary Donations’

New Zealand's education system has a problem with basic maths

NZ’s education sector is poorly financed

New Zealand is getting an F in its international education rankings, and its NCEA high school qualification has fallen into disrepute. The NCEA, a second-rate ‘made-in-NZ’ substitute for the Cambridge International Examinations, has been called a

…credit accumulation exercise. The NCEA system encourages schools and students to choose soft-option unit standards and easier achievement standards so that schools reach the 85% pass rate demanded by the government.

It is an inconvenient fact that while pass rates in NCEA are increasing year on year, our performance in international tests like PISA is steadily falling. This tends to indicate that our students’ learning/knowledge/skills are not genuinely improving. Rather, we are witnessing grade inflation…source

To add insult to the injury of the dumbing down of their children, families in New Zealand get pressured to pay voluntary school donations, sometimes amounting to hundreds of dollars, just for the honour of sending their children to the local school.

Voluntary donations are decided on by the decile ranking allocated to each school and vary depending on how affluent its catchment area is deemed to be. The lower socio-economic areas get more government funding than the higher rated areas.

All well and good but a voluntary donation should mean, well… just that. How it is then that some schools have taken to using debt collectors to gather outstanding donations? Education in New Zealand is supposed to be free, isn’t it?

The Ministry of Education sent out a warning memo to schools against the unlawful practise on Monday.

It said: “We have been informed by the Office of the Auditor General that some schools are entering into a contract with a third party, for the purposes of collecting fees and donations on the school’s behalf.

“Schools entering into these contracts may be in breach of the Crown Entities Act.”

According to the ministry notice, “no income for the school can be paid directly to a service provider trust account, proprietor or any other third party”.

“The ministry does not support such arrangements as it may be in breach of the Crown Entities Act and we urge all school boards to seek their own independent advice before deciding to enter into such arrangements.”

However, schools are starved for cash and standards are obviously falling. What else are they supposed to do to cover their costs?

Previously revealed tactics by cash-strapped schools to gain more money from parents included offering $100 meal vouchers and early payment discounts, and threatening public shaming of those who did not donate.

A Stuff survey of more than 25 schools in the lower North Island yielded an overwhelming consensus that government funding was not enough to provide even the basics, and fell far short of paying for increasingly essential computer technology. source

Meanwhile the Ministry of Education is itself threatening to use debt collectors to reclaim overpayments to teachers. The staff were overpaid by the notorious Novopay remuneration system. The irony will not be lost on teachers.

More than 2000 teachers overpaid when the payroll system was changed have not returned a single cent nearly three years after the introduction of Novopay.

Education bosses are now considering calling in debt collectors to chase the teachers who between them owe more than $2.5 million…

After a year of highly documented troubles, including pay packets ballooning to five figures while others received nothing, the Government took over and established a new company…

Primary teachers union NZEI president Louise Green said the missing money showed “what an ongoing debacle Novopay continues to be”. PPTA president Angela Roberts said it continued to be “murky” and many teachers were suspicious about how overpayment figures were reached.

“There was often a lack of clarity about how Novopay calculated any potential shortfall or overpayment,” she said… source

World class education system? If New Zealand wants one of them, its going to have to fund it properly.