The committee received and considered 139 submissions from groups and individuals and oral submissions from four submitters.
The bill amends the Education Act 1989 and seeks to reduce the expectation that parents should pay voluntary contributions to schools for their child’s education. The bill will support a school donation scheme whereby certain schools would be paid a nominal amount per student if the school agreed to comply with certain conditions.
As introduced, the bill inserts new section 79A into the Education Act to create discretionary grants.
These grants would be paid to the schools board of trustees that have opted out of soliciting voluntary payments from parents
New section 79B provides for a mechanism by which discretionary grant money could be recovered if boards did not comply with the conditions under which the grant was made.
Clause 4, new section 79A(5)(b) allows the Minister to impose extra conditions on discretionary grants. The committee considers that any extra conditions should only apply if those conditions have been communicated to school boards in the Gazette.
The committee thinks that it should be clarified that schools are not required to receive discretionary grants and therefore recommends that clause 4 is amended to insert new section 79A(5A). This would clarify that a school board may receive a discretionary grant only if it has decided by resolution to do so.
The committee recommends that it should be clarified that the maximum amount that can be recouped (because of non-compliance) should be no more than the earlier discretionary grant. Clause 4 should be amended to insert new section 79B(2) and to amend proposed new section 79(B)(1)(b).
Other matters considered
The committee queried what payments from parents to schools would be considered “solicited voluntary payments from parents” as defined in clause 4 of the bill. The Committee is concerned that some donations for activities, such as to cover the cost of a school camp, would fall within the ambit as well.
The Minister of Education informed the committee in July 2019 that he intends to propose an amendment to include an exemption provision. The Minister said that the intended amendment would apply to costs associated with school camps and would allow boards that receive a discretionary grant to continue to request voluntary payments towards school camp costs.
Many submissions received by the committee drew attention to the policy behind the bill querying whether schools in decile 8 to 10 should be included in the scheme, whether the decile system is the correct basis for determining eligibility and the amount of the discretionary grant.
Ninety-five of the 139 submissions requested that all schools be eligible. The committee considers that it is wrong and inequitable to exclude decile 8 to 10 schools from the donations scheme as significant numbers of disadvantaged children attend these schools.
The National Party members of the committee were concerned that the bill was rushed through the select committee unnecessarily. The time for submissions was 13 days. The committee considers that it would have had a lot more submissions had the bill been opened for the normal submission period.