15 Jul 2009

School donations' inquiry welcomed

2:47 pm on 15 July 2009

A public education lobby group is applauding the Minister of Education's call for an inquiry into a dispute over voluntary fees at a Masterton school.

Anne Tolley has ordered the inquiry, saying she is appalled that Rathkeale College suggested a parent mortgage her home to pay $13,000 in non-compulsory donations.

The dispute comes only weeks after the Minister threatened to set a limit to the fees state-integrated schools can charge.

Mrs Tolley says it is not acceptable for schools like Rathkeale to set higher fees than are justified by property expenses, nor to fund facilities that are better than other schools in the state system.

Lobby group QPEC says for many years some integrated schools have been allowed to charge thousands of dollars in fees each year, while also receiving full state funding.

The group's chairperson, Liz Gordon, says setting so-called donations, which are out of the reach of many families, ensures exclusivity, betraying the whole purpose of state education.

Labour Party education spokesperson Trevor Mallard says it is simply unacceptable for an integrated school to take taxpayers' money and then demand thousands of dollars in so-called voluntary fees.