What Happened To Free Education?

It always seems to be a shock when February arrives. Wasn’t it only yesterday we were celebrating New Year? By the time February rolls around most kids are back at school, hopefully ready and eager to learn, after a refreshing summer break with their family.

What should be a time of excitement for families can also be a time of undue stress. Getting kids back to school is an expensive exercise. Sorting everything out for my three kids has certainly put a dent in our bank account. Uniforms, stationary, sports gear, it all adds up and for many families it is simply too hard to provide everything their children need. So much for a free education.

The real killer is those so-called “voluntary” donations. Secondary schools in particular expect parents to hand over hundreds of dollars every year so that they can deliver the kind of education children need to be successful in the 21st century.

At the Palmerston North Boys High School prize-giving last year, Rector David Bovey lamented the need to charge fees. They aren’t really donations; they’re not really voluntary. Mr Bovey said that the education schools can provide with their Government funding is very basic. To provide a quality education – the kind kids need – extra money needs to be found.

Rangitikei College Principal Tony Booker made it clear why. “Despite what the Government claims, operations budgets have not increased in real terms, and it is costing us more and more to effectively run a school that ever before,” he told local media.

It’s just wrong that the quality of education children can get depends on how much money their parents have. The whole point of the state education system was to give every child an equal shot at success regardless of their background. That is no longer the case and every year kids from middle and low income families find it harder to keep up let alone get ahead.  It’s time that changed.