Labour has begun dipping into its $4 billion pot of planned spending on education, announcing a $70 million plan to end ‘voluntary’ school donations.

Leader Andrew Little said Labour would pay schools $150 per student per year if they agreed to stop asking parents for voluntary school donations.

He said school donations had risen 50 percent under the current National Government and would continue to rise because of restrictions on operational funding.

Ministry of Education figures published in February show total donations to all New Zealand state schools rose to $120.8 million in 2015 from $76.6 million in 2008. Auckland Grammar school received the most donations in 2015, collecting $2.069 million. Auckland Grammar’s school donation for 2017 is $1,175 per child.

“Our policy delivers an extra $150 per student to every school that agrees to stop asking parents for a donation. We expect the parents of more than 450,000 students will no longer be asked to pay a donation, bringing the total cost of the policy to an estimated $70 million per annum,” Little said.

 “Schools will still be able to request parents pay for extra-curricular activities, such as school camps, but those that take up the offer will not be able to ask for a general donation to help fund school operations,” he said.

Labour released its fiscal plans earlier this week, which included $4 billion of new spending on all levels of education. The plan included a block of $1.8 billion worth of unallocated spending on education. The move to end donations is the first announcement, with Labour Education spokesman Chris Hipkins scheduled to release Labour’s full Education manifesto at an event in Lower Hutt later today.

“Under our Education Manifesto, Labour will invest an extra $4 billion in education over the next four years to rapidly lift the quality of our education system and reduce pressure on early childhood centres, schools, tertiary institutions and parents,” Little said.

Labour has already announced plans to offer three years free tertiary education in phases by 2025, which forecast to cost $276 million by 2020/21. It has also promised to pay for early childhood education centres to have fully qualified teachers, which it forecast would cost $86 million a year by 2020/21.
Little hinted at the announcement due later in the day, saying Labour would spend $1.7 billion over four years to boost funding and deliver more teachers.

“Labour is the only party offering to properly invest in our education sector and do it in a way that will drive quality while reducing financial pressure on parents and students,” he said.

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