Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, and Sinn Féin TD for Cavan-Monaghan Matt Carthy, have today introduced a bill which regulates the seeking of voluntary contributions, preventing families being singled out for not being able to meet these often crippling costs.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“Today, my colleague Matt Carthy TD and I have introduced legislation to end the pressure on families to meet so-called voluntary contributions.
“Around this time every year without fail, dozens of families contact my office who are under extreme pressure to meet the rising costs of the return to school.
“Among these costs, one of the most significant is the voluntary contribution. Families can be asked to pay €200, €300, or even €400 per child.
“These contributions can add significant pressure, as schools mainly seek the payment in September, which on top of all of the other expenses can tip many families to breaking point.
“It is shocking that schools have been so underfunded by successive governments that they’re left with no choice but to ask for help from parents to keep them afloat – that parents are being put to the pin of their collar to keep the lights and heating on in their child’s school.
“This Bill is about a roadmap to ending the need for such contributions, and the banning them. There should be no need whatsoever if we fund our education system properly.
“In the interim, this Bill will place an obligation on schools to make clear to families that these contributions are voluntary.
“It will ensure that no child is stigmatised or denied opportunities because their parents are not in a position to make a contribution.
Teachta Carthy added:
“This Bill will bring an end to the pressure on families to bear the financial brunt of Government underfunding in our schools.
“This Bill will prohibit schools from contacting parents more than once per school year looking for contributions, and will work to end the stigma, by preventing any reminders of these contributions to be sent home with their children.
“It will ensure transparency, by placing an obligation on schools and the Department of Education to publish online the total amount collected in voluntary contributions and how this has been spent in each school.
“Crucially, this Bill sets out a pathway for bringing about an end to voluntary contributions for good, once capitation levels have been adequately restored by the Government.
“This annual burden on families to make up the shortfall for Government underfunding cannot continue.
“Sinn Féin will continue to stand up for families, and I hope that my colleagues from all parties and none will support this important Bill, and bring an end to the pressure of voluntary contributions on families.”