A year ago, Amsterdam education alderman Marjolein Moorman (PvdA) already announced that she would do it, but now it’s final: primary schools that ask parents for a voluntary contribution higher than 225 euros no longer receive a subsidy from the municipality.
With this measure Moorman wants to put a stop to the strong segregation and inequality of opportunity in Amsterdam schools. According to her, a high voluntary parental contribution is a threshold for parents with lower incomes.
The amount of money that schools ask parents, for example, goes towards organizing school trips. The national average is 54 euros. Recently, it has been forbidden by law to exclude children from activities because their parents do not pay the voluntary contribution.
The SAAM Foundation, with 26 schools in Noord-Brabant, has abolished the parental contribution altogether. “I just don’t want a conversation at school about that anymore,” says Edith van Montfort, director of SAAM. So there is also a discussion on the subject in Rotterdam, but the city doesn’t want to follow the Amsterdam example. The college considers it unnecessary to withdraw subservience.
Parents’ contribution for a log cabin
For seven schools in Amsterdam, Moorman’s measure is reason to reduce the parental contribution to less than 225 euros. Six schools are sticking to the high parental contribution and will miss out on the subsidy this school year.
One of these is the First Open Air School in Amsterdam-Zuid. The parents’ board and the management regret the decision of the alderman. But the subsidy of about 100 euros per child is out of proportion to the 300 euros they receive from parents.
Koos Marinus, teacher from group eight, tells us that the school has used the parental contribution to build a log cabin next to the school building. “So we could create extra space for remedial teaching.” He is proud of the education they give at his school. “I say: alderman come and have a look here and show them in The Hague how education can also be” The open air school emphasizes that it does not refuse parents who do not or cannot pay the contribution.
More money per child
Nationwide, the parental contribution is only a small part of the financing of primary schools. About 95 percent comes from the national government and is based on a formula with factors such as pupil numbers, the age of the teachers and – for additional funding – also the educational level of the parents.
The Open Air School states that schools with pupils of low-educated parents – “rightly so” – receive more money per child from the state than a school with children of highly educated people. But it is nice, the school thinks, that the parental contribution is there to do something extra.
Not far from the First Open Air School is De Pinksterbloem. Director Valeri Ligterink insists on the relatively low voluntary parental contribution of 44 euros. “We attach great importance to everyone being welcome. And for us it is important that parents themselves cooperate at school instead of giving money.”
She emphasizes that the parental contribution at Whitsun is really voluntary. “Those who don’t pay, don’t get a reminder. Some parents pay more voluntarily.”
Educational lawyer Wilco Bussee doubts the legal basis for the measure of the municipality, because (abuse of) the parental contribution falls under the scope of the Education Inspectorate. “From a legal point of view, the municipality does not have any involvement with the voluntary parental contribution and therefore cannot interfere with it” Moorman: “We have obtained legal advice from Professor of Education Law Paul Zoontjes and it appears that this is possible
According to Guido Walraven, director of the Knowledge Centre for Mixed Schools, the alderman’s measure mainly has a symbolic effect. He does not expect it to counteract segregation within the Amsterdam schools. “More is needed and that requires a lot of involvement of parents, schools and administrators”