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Minister investigating school over "charges"

Minister investigating school over irregular "charges"

Associate Education Minister David Benson-Pope has launched an investigation into a Bay of Plenty high school for the way it appears to be misrepresenting optional donations as compulsory fees.

Mr Benson-Pope announced earlier this year that he is examining the issue of how much, and by what methods, some schools are requesting school donations.

Mr Benson-Pope says the need for this review is highlighted by the case of an Otumoetai College parent Ian Mason being taken to court for unpaid "fees", which was brought to his attention by TVNZ's Close-up programme last evening.

"I have asked the Ministry of Education to investigate Otumoetai College further because it appears this school is acting in a highly irregular manner," said Mr Benson-Pope. "I hope to have the results of that investigation next week. If they do indeed show this school is not acting appropriately I will take action.

"On seeing Mr Mason's invoices the Ministry of Education today wrote to the Otumoetai College Board of Trustees requesting that they do not proceed with any debt recovery in the courts next week.

"The Ministry has told the board that the items being invoiced need to be individually examined to see if they are legitimate charges before any such debt recovery action is contemplated."

The government funds schools to deliver the core curriculum. Spending on schools has increased by $1billion from $3.5billion to $4.5billion since 1999. The operations grant and other in-kind resources for schools have together increased by 18.5 per cent in real terms since 1999.

"Many schools ask for modest donations from parents in addition to government funding. Here, it appears, we have a case of a school asking for more than other schools and it would seem in clear breach of well-publicised rules that govern this situation.

"Most parents, if able, are happy to donate something to their children's school for extras but they rely on schools to follow the rules. This doesn't appear to have happened in this instance," said Mr Benson-Pope.

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