IStory from today's Age
They are meant to provide a "free" education, but state schools are charging parents hundreds of dollars to secure a place for their child.
The Education Department has reprimanded Northcote High School after parents were asked to pay $270 to enrol their children at the inner-city school.
It is now contacting every Victorian state school to warn them against the practice, as concerns grow about excessive fees and levies in the government sector.( I guess that memo will arrive tomorrow)
Lea Campbell was shocked to read "your deposit is used to secure your place at Northcote High School" as she filled out an online form to enrol her daughter in Year 7 at their local school. Parents were unable to complete the online enrolment until they handed over their credit card details.
Dr Campbell said the payment went against the ideals of public education.
"For some families this is literally their bread and butter," she said.
"Government schools are there to welcome all. This makes it more difficult for low-income families to attend their local school."
But Dr Campbell, who is a member of public education alliance Our Children Our Schools, said she did not blame the school and the situation reflected the chronic underfunding of state schools.
Northcote High School principal Kate Morris said the payment request would be withdrawn immediately.
"That message is not in line with what we should be doing," she said.( Then how did it happen?)
In a report released earlier this year, the Auditor-General said "parent payments have evolved from being used to support free instruction to being essential to its provision."
The watchdog found Victorian parents forked out $310 million to state schools in 2013, or $558 per student, a rise of $70 million since 2009.
Schools are charging for textbooks, head lice checks and stationery, which should be provided for free.
A former Productivity Commission economist said once inflation was taken into account, state government funding for Victorian public schools dropped by 6.5 per cent per student between 2009 and 2013. This compared to an increase of 17.6 per cent for Catholic schools and 11.2 per cent for independent schools over the same period.
An Education Department spokesman said all students were entitled to enrol at their designated neighbourhood state school.
"Victorian legislation provides that instruction in the standard curriculum program must be provided free to all students in Victorian government schools."
The department is speaking with schools to ensure they give families a breakdown of how parent payments are spent, and ensure schools seek feedback.
It has also commissioned an independent review of parent payments, which will be finished this year.
Parents at Glen Park are not asked to pay fees and haven't been for the last 18 years.
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