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Labour will need to come up with more cash if it is to go ahead with its unrealistic plan to end school donations, with data showing that over $130 million in donations was paid in 2016 – almost twice the estimated cost of Labour’s policy, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.

“Labour estimated the policy would cost $70 million, apparently based on 450,000 students being covered by the policy, with no detail as to how they estimated this uptake.

“Given Labour made big promises about ending school donations, it’s clear it’ll need to find more money in its already-tight budget or admit that the policy is too expensive and unrealistic.

“The fact is the Government has little ability to force schools not to ask for donations and in order to really incentivise them, it could cost twice as much as what it budgeted for.

“Giving schools that scrap donations an extra $150 per student will not be near enough. In 2016, the number of donations reported to Inland Revenue that were $150 and under made up just 21.5 per cent of all donations. What incentive will the Government offer to counter the 78.5 per cent of donations over $150?

“While the IRD data is only a snapshot of all donations made, because many parents are not claiming tax rebates, it is still a strong indication that the $150 promised by the Government will only incentivise a small proportion of schools.

“The Government needs to work better with schools and parents to ensure that they know that they could be eligible to claim back up to a third of their voluntary school donations.

“Education Minister Chris Hipkins will be under huge pressure after spending $2.8 billion on tertiary education students, leaving little money left for the rest of the education sector.

“What’s disappointing is that the Ministry of Education has withheld two key pieces of advice which would likely provide the actual costings of the policy.

“We all want to make education to be more affordable for parents but that process requires transparency and robust costings so that education priorities can be properly weighed up.”

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