Sinn Féin publishes legislation on voluntary contribution - Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has today published a Bill which seeks to ensure that no child is ever disadvantaged in any way by not giving a so-called voluntary contribution.
Speaking today, he called on the Government to ensure that Schools are properly funded, so that the practice of so-called ‘voluntary contributions’ are brought to an end.
“Today we have published this Bill to ensure no child is ever disadvantaged due to the inability of their family to pay a voluntary contribution, and that the practice can be eliminated by proper funding of schools.
“It is a simple fact that the growth of so-called voluntary contributions is due to underfunding of our schools and an 11% cut in capitation funding to schools in recent years.
“According to a survey undertaken by the Catholic Primary School Management Association, the contribution of parents to the running of primary schools is €40m per annum.
“On average, schools get state funding of around €46,000 a year for operating costs. However, the average bills total €91,000
According to Barnardos, over two thirds of parents are asked for a voluntary contribution from their child’s school. 67% for primary school children and 69% at second level.
“These funds can be substantial, with over half of secondary school parents being asked to give payments of more than €100.
“This is clearly far from voluntary. Almost 80% of parents are pursued for payment, and if it isn’t paid it can have a very real impact on a child’s education.
“According to a report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee, it can be required for acceptance of a school place, it can mean children not being allowed access to extracurricular activities, lockers, and other facilities.
“Every child, regardless of their income deserves equal opportunity for education – so called voluntary contributions fly in the face of that.
“Sinn Féin want to ensure that the need for such voluntary contributions is eliminated by properly funding our schools.
“It is absurd and outrageous that in 2019 schools are still reliant on fundraising and payments of these kinds simply to pay heat and electricity Bills, it is Dickensian.
“This Bill would ensure that no child could be disadvantaged or lose out in anyway if the parents do not pay the contribution. It would ensure that schools cannot chase and pursue parents after requesting any contributions, and it would ensure the school make it clear to parents that they are not obliged to pay.
“It would also ensure the Department of Education collates information on these contributions and issue guidance for parents.
“This is part of a suite of measures Sinn Féin has proposed to cut back to school costs, including a Back to School Bonus of €140, and providing free school books among other proposals already published. The costs of Back to School can be crippling, costing families hundreds of euros, a first-year child costing €735, and with a third of families falling in to debt.”