Cash-strapped schools turning to wealthy P&Cs

Principals have warned parents turning to wealthy P&C groups to fund school programs are creating a bigger divide between rich and poor schools.
Financially struggling schools are increasingly turning to cashed-up groups in their communities to fund literacy and numeracy programs, new figures show.
The funding shortage being experienced by some schools is being filled by Parents and Citizens (P&C) groups, who are asking parents for a voluntary $200 donation per child to fund their specialist programs, buy digital devices and support teachers.
The latest published figures show some public schools, such as Baulkham Hills High, raise as much as $250,000 a year through fees which are designed to “enhance educational programs”.
While the public education system funds the provision of teachers, school buildings and basic teaching and learning materials, Scott said parents were called upon to fund other aspects of their child's schooling, on a user-pays basis.

These additional costs can include payment for excursions and extra-curricular activities that range from school bands and orchestras to inter-school sporting representation and performing arts materials. 

NSW Primary Principals Association (NSWPPA) president, Geoff Scott, told The Educator that while some P&Cs were wealthy due to the high-disposable income of some families, others were left disadvantaged in the absence of Gonski funding.

“As in every other aspect of Australian life these costs nearly always rise and rarely fall. Public school principals spend much time, energy and resources on trying to ensure that no child is disadvantaged because of family circumstances,” he said.

Scott added that as long as cash-strapped schools continued turning to wealthy P&Cs for more resources while other schools remained under-resourced, the disadvantage gap would only widen.

NSW Secondary Principals Council (NSWSPC) president, Lila Mularczyk, agrees.

She told The Educator that there was “no policy, practice or belief that could morally maintain inequity in school funding”.

“The widening of the disadvantage gap will continue between school communities until Gonski is implemented for the six years plus. To reduce the widening disadvantage gap - a school community needs certainty of targeted funding,” she said.

Jason Vials, president of the NSW Federation of P&C Associations, told The Sydney Morning Herald that the schools struggling to raise funds were in rural or remote areas, and often the ones that needed it the most.

“There is no doubt that P&Cs are being asked to contribute significant amounts to schools and this has been going for some time because of chronic under-funding,” Vials said.
“Parents are asked to even contribute boxes of tissues because school cannot afford them, as well bring-your-own-devices because schools don't have the money to buy things like laptops and iPads.”
However, other communities experiencing disadvantage can be harder to identify.
“From their experience, principals know that, even within schools serving outwardly similar communities, there are significant differences in family circumstances, both financial and educational,” Scott explained.

“Some communities have 'pockets' of disadvantage which are easily identified, whilst other differences are sometimes hidden behind a facade.

“In some communities that may appear more 'affluent', there will be families who are financially struggling with high mortgages, escalating costs of living, operating and purchase costs for more than one vehicle to enable both parents to get to their places of employment.”

Scott said the “entrenchment” of the Gonski funding model into Australian school resourcing, must become the “default factory setting to overcome the widening equity gap that has long existed and become worse over the last 40 years”.