THE ongoing situation of schools requiring voluntary contributions from families to pay bills has been described as ‘pathetic’ by a Cork TD.
Sinn Féin TD for Cork South Central Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has called on the government to act against voluntary school contributions which he said are placing unfair pressure on families’ finances. He said the situation is down to underfunding of schools.
“We know schools must fundraise and must ask for voluntary contributions from families because they don’t have enough money. It is pathetic that schools must ask for these voluntary contributions and send begging letters home just to keep the lights on, the heating going and to ensure there is enough stationary. It is unacceptable,” he said.
Sinn Féin recently brought forward an Education (Voluntary Contributions) Bill 2021 in the Dáil which is designed to prevent families from being singled out for not being able to meet these often-crippling costs. The Cork TD said the Minister for Education Norma Foley has committed to looking at the issue again in nine months.
“The Bill is trying to identify over the course of a year or two what the funding shortfall is and when the Minister fills the funding gap, we then ban the voluntary contributions. Unfortunately, the Minister has delayed it by nine months. She didn’t oppose it and she said she will look at it again in nine months. I hope this is the case and she looks at it sincerely.”
The Sinn Féin spokesperson on education said voluntary contributions are a huge cost for families who already have a lot of other school-related costs.
“Other countries don’t have this situation where the parents must subsidise the school even though they have already paid for it through their taxes. That is not good enough. It is not fair on the child, the parents, or the schools.
“We have families who could have spent over €1,000 on books, bags, uniforms, shoes, and tablets already during the summer. Then fast forward on to September and the letters arrive looking for more money.
"This all adds up if you have multiple children attending school. It is a huge cost and especially this year with the huge cost of living crisis,” he added.
The Cork TD wants the Government to act and reduce the cost of a return to school.
“The Government isn’t taking any action to reduce the costs,” he added.