Tuesday, May 08, 2007

When free education doesn't mean free education.

Maybe I'm a bit thick but when you send your child to a state funded school I presumed that meant free. When I went to state funded school everything was provided from paper to text books to sports equipment. The only thing I had to bring with me was pencils, pens, ruler, rubber and sharpener.

Here in Ireland it seems to be very different. Firstly I have to purchase all the text books and copy (exercise) books. I have to pay the school a fee for each child to cover the cost of additional material such as photocopying and art equipment. I get asked to make a voluntary contribution of between €250 and €300 per child. If I choose not to pay this voluntary contribution I get a rather snotty letter pointing out that I have forgotten to pay said voluntary contribution and could I please pay voluntary contribution now. I also pay a sub to the Parents Association of my eldest child's school as well as locker fees.

Last Monday I received a letter from my youngest two children's school looking for between €1,000-€10,000 per family (180 families in the school) to finance building work. The government has agreed to fund €300,000 and the parents have to cough up the remaining €850,000. That is a lot of money for a relatively small school.

Oh and by the way they want the money by the 11th May and have arranged loans with a local bank just in case you don't have a few thousand euro in your pocket.

37 comments:

Amy W said...

Interesting how that all works in your country. We too have to pay for books here for public school, but that's about it.

But don't get my started on my kids preschool...

Lisa said...

Wow, I'm lucky, we pay very high property taxes for our excellent schools in this town (and the stupid fundraisers) but that's about it- no books, paper, etc.
I actually just voted today to increase our taxes, as they want to add to the school budget and add all-day kindergarten.

Sam said...

that is rediculous.

I just had to pay $700+ for my operation that was meant to be free too. Unfortunately no loan had been arranged for me.

fundraiser?

Sally Lomax said...

That is why you allow your artists/ artistes tax breaks. You'd better get writing that book Beccy and get some of it back!!!!

Great strop by the way!!

john.g. said...

If you have any left, can I have some?

Carla said...

Wow! That seems a little steep. Here in Canada, we do have to pay extra for school supplies and small fees to the school but I don't think it's ever over $100...property tax covers most of it.

Beccy said...

Amy I could swap stories on preschool, when Dillon went it was very reasonable by the time Ben was going to preschool it cost more than our child benefit for three children.

Lisa, our taxes are amongst the highest in Europe I believe, they feel pretty high to me anyway.

Sam I don't want to be paying back money for longer than Ben has left in the school, which is what they're proposing, not to mention that the majority of the building work will not benefit my children.

Sally, maybe I could splodge a few colours onto a canvass and call it art...but would anyone buy it?

John, I don't have any to begin with!

Rachel said...

I had to provide all of my daughter's school supplies at the beginning of the year. No biggie, just things like glue, scissors, crayons, etc. Then after a couple of months they were asking for everyone to donate white copy paper because they ran out and the school system could not buy any more. I did have to buy her reading books (she's in kindergarten).

Then they just ask for $5.00 here and $3.00 there. They nickel and dime us to death!

Her elementary school yearbook is freakin $30!!!

Emma in Canada said...

I once wrote a post about how much it cost for my children's "free" education. School fees (although most of Canada pays tuition to go to catholic schools, in Alberta it is gov't funded, however the board charges a yearly fee- my daughter's school is $85, my son's $110), all the fundraisers, hot lunches, field trips and on and on it goes. By the end of June I'm pretty sure the school year has cost me about $1000. Right now we do casinos every 2years, that brings in about $75,000. We are at risk of losing them though, depending on what the new Archbishop says. The whole gambling is a sin and all that.

So can you refuse to pay the money?

Beccy said...

Carla, this is a one off amount to fund building work they are currently looking for, the rest I don't really mind.

Emma, our funraiser was for the Parents Association and it is going to buy new computers for the school so is different to what the school is looking for. You can refuse to pay, they are looking for donations and we are only going to pay what we can afford. I refuse to go into debt for something I am already paying through taxes. I feel that the school should have given us more warning as well, 11 days is not a lot for those paupers amongst us!

hellojed said...

I had no idea it was so expensive here! And like you said the taxes are so high already...one for the canvassers at your door!

Beccy said...

Hellojed, they're going to regret knocking on my door this year, especially Mary Hanafin.

Beccy said...

Rachel, I'd rather nickle and dime than all those thousands!

my4kids said...

Wow Beccy that is crazy. Although are their schools very good? Here right now we don't pay for the books as the kids have to share them we do provide all the supplies such as paper, pencils, pens,crayons,folders,etc. and they have to be the name brand the teacher specifies which is usually the highest costing. They do 2 different school pictures one in fall and one is spring and these are fundraisers and the kids (including the kindergarteners) come home with fundraisers to get people to buy things from them from the first day of school. I don't have a lot of faith in the school system here though. I've had way to many run ins with idiots! The renovations are paid through the school district which is good because I wouldn't contribute...just my own feelings here.

Catwoman said...

That is insane! How can they ask parents to donate that kind of money???

Unbelievable!

And, uhm... Immature me had a giggle over your use of the word rubber, because in North America, that's a condom... I'm figuring your schools in Ireland aren't THAT progressive, are they?

alfaking said...

What's given free is never free. Somehow you got to pay for it. We've had the experience over here with free education, free transportation for school children and old age pensioners. The cost of living has risen exhorbitantly.

It's inconceivable that parents are being asked to contribute for the building works, albeit voluntary.

Policy makers do indeed have double tongues, I never believed.

Asha said...

OMG!! Beccy that is not a free public education!!Sounds like a private school who asks for everything!!!That is terrible.

My kids go to Public schools here too,but except PTA fee and personal note books,pens etc,everything is free!!!Teachers are so wonderful too.Sometimes they buy supplies if they are short of it,only ask us to send some Tissue boxes etc and there is no obligation to send it.

I went to private Catholic school in India and of course we had to buy everything and pay fees.
I am really surprised at amount they are asking for each child in a public school!!Whoa!!

Sam said...

I'm with you if you refuse to pay.
Don't do it. 11 days notice - tell them to bog off.

They should do fundraisers to get the money if they want it.

they are asking for 10k - that's crazy

and who is going to give 10k if they can just give 1k?

ChrisB said...

Beccy that's far too much to ask parents, I know your school has a lot of wealthy families but I'm sure you won't be the only one who cannot afford much. Do not take up a loan. They can't force you if it's voluntary!! its moral blackmail do they intend to name and shame people?

Beccy said...

Terri, I'm very lucky in that my children go to a very good school in a very nice area and some parents are in a position to pay out a lot of money butwe are not and I'm not prepared to sacrifice our lives for something we're paying for already through taxes.

My children go to a protestant school not a Catholic school (Catholicism being the main religion here) and it is harder for the protestant schools to get the funding as they have to meet more criteria. I think that is blatent bias in favour of the Catholic schools and feel that sll schools, regardless of religion, should be treated equally.

Catwoman, quite easily it seems. I'll have to remember to say eraser in future. Rubbers most certainly would not be found in schools here, I can remember when the only place you could buy them was a chemist and that's within the last 12 years!

Alfaking, I agree nothing is free but we already pay via our taxes which are high so I do object to paying twice.

Asha, your system sounds much better than ours. I can certainly manage a few tissue boxes!

Sam there are some multi millionaires with children at the school and really 10k is not going to make a dent in their pockets it's the likes of us who will feel whatever we give. I also really object to the 11 days notice. The planning permission was obtained over a year ago so fundraising could have started and the school would be looking for less now. Apparently they were waiting to see how much would be government funded but it was never all going to be funded so they could have started looking for the addtional funds already. The very wealthy have been approached personally to give the 10k donations so the rest of us plebs they are looking for 7k, 5k, 3k and 1k donations. As I said earlier I only intend to give what I can afford and refuse to go into debt. I also feel that Dillon's school is much pooer and far more in need of a cash injection. Mollie and Ben are going to benefit from much of the proposed building work.

Beccy said...

A few typo's.

Dillon's school is much poorer.

Mollie and Ben are NOT going to benefit from most of the building work.

Beccy said...

Mum they say that all donations will be treated annymously with only the treasurer knowing who donates how much but they will be approaching those who do not donate. I know of at least one person who has written explaining that she is not at present in a position to donate.

I get annoyed because as I'm not in a position to throw money at the school I support it in other ways, baking for their sales, serving on the PA, attending school tours, donating art equipment. It may not be much and I'm not looking for any rewards (or thanks) but it is all I can do to help yet they seem to judge people on how much money they give.

Matt said...

What the hell kind of system is that? What happens if you just refuse to pay?

Tiggerlane said...

Hmm...sounds like college for young 'uns.

Now, I'm wondering about the conversion rate - b/c if a euro=a dollar, I'd be screwed.

Beccy said...

Matt they can't make us pay, I guess if they don't raise the funds the new building will not go ahead.

Tiggerlane €1,000 is the equivalent of US$1,353.20

Tonya said...

ummm that seems a bit extreme.. I would really be wanting to tell someone off.. especially with the voluntary fees?? geeesh

Sabrina said...

Oh my word. . .that is just insane. I always thought about the "free" health care when I was forking over insane VAT and my DH's crazy taxes from his paycheck. . .absolutely nuts!

Julie said...

Wow, that's crazy. Don't you just love mandatory volunteering?! My oldest enters the public school system here in the states next year - I fear it's going to be a real eye opening experience for us. I hope nothing like you're facing though!

alissa said...

Oh my word...! Here, in Ontario (Canada), our public school system is completely funded by the government. Okay, I take that back. It's funded by our tax dollars, but still...

However, preschool is all private. Public education doesn't still till they are 5 (in kindergarten). And the CO-OP preschool I just enrolled my daughter in is still $2800 the year, for only 3 mornings a week!

Wondering how they can force a VOLUNTARY payment out of the parents?!

melissa said...

That's...wow. That's amazing. I can't believe that bit about the loans. Our schools are funded from property taxes and seemingly endless "fundraisers" - wherein you really don't want to pay $12 for a roll of gift wrap, but you've gotten enough notes home about how the kids won't get any field trips unless they raise money that you buy it anyway. My house is awash in strange knicknacks and expensive gift wrap for just that reason.

The other expenses are the pleas for "class donations" - crayons, pencils, tissues - that are sent home seemingly every month. The schools in my district are operating on almost no money, though, so I do what I can. I know I could not take out a loan, though.

Sally Lomax said...

It's pretty outrageous really. tTe assumption that any of you should have any spare income in the first place, and the gall to ask for it so blatantly. it strikes me that you are in a no win situation. What would happen if you gave nothing, or a small amount such as 10 or 20 Es?

Sally Lomax said...

Just a thought, and I know that it's possibly the last thing that you feel like doing, but how about in your PA role, offering instead to host an auction of promises for them? We did one once for one of our children's schools and it was a great way of raising lots of money. It would get you off the hook as if you raise money for them that way they would hopefully understand that you can't give personally!

If it is a reasonably wealethy parent base, then hopefully they would have lots of intersting services and goods to offer for auction! And from my experience, parents such are only to willing to show others how much they have by giving a bit a way iiat an auction!!

la bellina mammina said...

OUCH! Being foreigners, my kids have to pay to get into local governemnt school which they are in now, which means we have to buy the school uniforms, the books plus any field trips that they get involved in.

Beccy said...

Tonya, you don't have to pay the voluntary fees but you do get a snotty letter regarding this, and our fees are amongst the highest I know of.

Sabrina, basic healthcare certainly isn't free here!

I hope so too Julie.

Alissa, preschool is private here too, when Ben left preschool (2 years ago) it cost €300 a month for four mornings a week and that was one of the cheaper schools some charge over €400 a month.

Melissa, we have to fund all field trips ourselves, I've just paid over €50 for Ben and Mollie's Summer day out. In fairness the school doesn't hold any fundraisers but the Parents Association hold one a year. If they want something they ask for the money.

Sally, we held a dream aution a few years ago and raised a lot of money. We have just held a funraiser on the 27th Mar (three days before this bombshell was dropped), we ran a race night and made close to €20,000. This money has already been allocated towards buying new computers for the school.

As for organising another event, we only have six weeks left in school two of which will be held in various church halls if the building work starts in June as our principal would like and I don't think it could be organised in such a short space, especially as all thses parents gave gerously to our fundraiser two weeks ago and have just been asked for oodles of money. Also I go on my holiday in three weeks so won't be much help in organising it. Earlier in the year we spoke to the principle regarding fundraising because we would have foregone our fundraising if she wanted to host an event towards the school but she felt very confident of raising the funds via donations. Although I knew it was coming I never expected the huge amounts and the lack of time. If you can only afford to give €10 or €20 then I guess you give that, as my favourite supermarket says 'every little hepls'!

LBM, but I guess you knew that when you sent your children to that school, we thought we were sending our children to a school funded by our taxes.

Steffi said...

That´s a big and interesting topic,Beccy!Sorry my nglish is too bad to write much more about it!But schools and money that´s a difficult topic worldwide.Our school system here in Germany is really bad ... one of the badest in europe.And for families with children is Germany not a good place.
I can write a book about it if I like it!But we hear as parents only money for this,money for that,money for all....It´s terrible!!This month we must pay still € 250 for Nathalie´s 5 days travel with her class ( the travel go only 1 hour away from here !!!!).Anne drive with her educations-class too for 5 day and she need € 220.
It´s crazy!

frannie said...

WHAT????? I am seriously dumbstruck right now. that is completely insane? can you refuse to pay the building money?

that is really amazing...

Beccy said...

Steffi your English is great. Sounds like you're expected to make fairly big payouts like us. It's hard when you haven't budgeted for it.

Frannie, you can refuse as it is a donation. I know of one single mother who has written to explain that due to her current situation ahe can't afford it. We're only giving a little, well a little to them but a lot to us!