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Free education - yeah right

29 November 2004

Free education - yeah right

Green MP Metiria Turei says the skyrocketing cost of educating children will inevitably "ghettoise" poorer families living in upmarket areas.

Mrs Turei's comments follow a report released today that said sending a teenager to a state school in a well-off neighbourhood could cost hundreds of dollars more a year than a low decile area. She was appalled that public school fees could cost $1900 or more.

"Between school fees, which are supposedly optional and increased costs of extra curricula activities, poorer families are being hit with a double whammy," said the Green Party education spokesperson.

"Essentially, this is due to the Government's failure to fund what should be a free education system.

"Extra curricular activities are not an option for poorer families attending higher decile schools. This leads to separation and alienation of rich and poor within schools. Even school uniforms are so highly priced, many families struggle to provide the basics."

Mrs Turei said it was outrageous that schools were demanding school donations and withholding leaving certificates and other rights from students until they paid up.

"We need to remember that schools can't legally demand that payment and many
families don't pay because they simply can't afford to."

"Schools are spending funds on marketing efforts to attract international students to generate enough income to run the school properly. This leaves schools in the invidious position of providing a critical free public service to our children while selling their education services to the wider marketplace.

Mrs Turei said schools were caught in an untenable situation. Government funding had reduced significantly since the introduction of Tomorrow's Schools, leaving them struggling to find the funds for basic education services.

"The government has even attacked school transport funding forcing families to fork out hundreds of dollars a year just to get their kids to a 'free' school."

"By failing to address the serious funding shortfalls in the public education sector, Labour is clearly continuing to pursue the privatisation of education agenda set by previous governments."


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