Revealing to parents what their voluntary school fees are spent on seemed a likely way to encourage more families to pay, thought Everyday P-12 School principal, Mr James Matthews. However the initiative has had the direct opposite effect.
Our recent school review recommended greater transparency on our behalf. At around the same time my rates bill arrived at home.
Mr Matthews explained why he introduced the ground-breaking (and possibly school-bankrupting) policy. ‘Our recent school review recommended greater transparency on our behalf. At around the same time my rates bill arrived at home. The reverse side of the rates notice featured a graph indicating what my payment would be spent on. It was broken down into percentages and quite informative; I had no idea twenty-five percent of my rates went towards rubbish collection. I decided to use the same principle with the school’s voluntary fee payments.’
The school leader asked business manager, Mrs Dorothy Reid, to analyse what the money from the voluntary fees was spent on and to send a copy of the results to each family who paid, thanking them for their contribution and showing what their money purchased. To the detriment of the school’s budget, Mr Matthews made the fateful mistake of not checking the information before it was posted.
‘It turns out seventy percent of the voluntary fee money goes toward covering the costs of other students whose families choose not to pay the fees. Things like books, stationery, excursions … the money has to come from somewhere. And if it’s not that child’s parents, it turns out that place is the other parents who pay the voluntary fee.’
… the money has to come from somewhere. And if it’s not that child’s parents, it turns out that place is the other parents who pay the voluntary fee.
Parents, who believed the vast majority of others paid their fees, were outraged. One former fee-payer, who chose to remain anonymous, stated, ‘I’m happy to pay for my child to go to school. My fees can go towards their books, the teachers’ wages, school maintenance, but I’ll be stuffed if I’m paying for everyone else’s kids to go to school. If you asked me to pay for a few certain kids not to attend, well that’d be a different story.’ Another parent had a very similar view. ‘Why would I continue paying? I’m going to use that money to pay for private tutoring for my child. At least then I know they’re getting the full benefit of my money.’
Mr Matthews has cancelled the scheme and is hurriedly devising another to encourage families to resume paying the voluntary fees. His most recent idea, Fee Lotto, involves parents who pay the fee getting to spin a wheel with the chance of winning a variety of prizes related to their child’s education, such as access to a tablet with a non-cracked screen.