Children

School Costs – Still A Substantial Issue. Why?

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If there is one thing that UnitedPeople will always attempt to do, it’s that we give things to you straight! We again attempt to do so here.

Since UnitedPeople was official created, it has consistently sought better answers and solutions to a number of issues. One of these all the time, has been about the costs surrounding primary and secondary education on parents and guardians, etc. We would like to say that the public can finally, in any way, put this yearly problem behind them. Sadly that is still not the case.

We are entering that yearly brief period where some elected will mention:

The cost for parents to send their child to school these days, is just crazy!

Stressed Parents

They would be indeed right to say this. Sadly we have to report that we are entering a period when after saying something like this, they vanish on the issue.

To acerbate the overall issue, soon after many say this, they will quickly drop the whole issue once the school terms have started. Elected move on to another issue they can try make themselves appear to be addressing – something that will hopefully resonate with the public,  thus gaining them more popularity or at least hold on to their present support base. Meanwhile, the previous issue goes largely unaddressed.

This is what is happening again this year. We have reported both of these matters last year and throughout the year. The issue of costs (especially books as you will soon see) and the dropping of the issue by elected soon after, keeps reoccurring.

Before we move on to the main issue itself. One more thing to note. While some elected do raise the issue annually – for which we should be grateful for at least – before they do move on – other elected don’t bother at all to address the yearly issue. Is this because they don’t want to be caught by the public raising an issue and then be seen to leave it unaddressed? Is it because the matter might be a conflict of interest with themselves, family or other business relationships? They are not saying. The public and good journalists needs to dig deeper!


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Free Education

The words “free education” when quoted by politicians and mainstream elected, is to many parents (a) an insult to civilians intelligence and (b) a slap in the face to actual reality in Ireland. Take for example, this lady speaking about her situation:

 

This become an all too common situation in many schools, in every town and city right across the country. Local and national elected know this is going no – but very few will say anything at all. Even less will go to the bother of practical doing something  to address the situation. When was the last time you heard or read about your local or national elected going to a local place of education or a education headquarters, to resolve what is going on yearly?

Now that many schools are introducing the use of expensive iPads, companies involved won’t allow parents to buy secondhand ones either. Some have tried to do this just in order to try cope with more huge costs added onto parents. Business companies, now more seeing children’s education as a place to greater mass profit, are creating an additional business monopolies within district schools that parents are unable to challenge – and again, local and national elected know is happening but won’t address this situation either. Well, maybe a rare one will offer a few token words – if you are extremely lucky – then also do little!

There are other issues with the electronic side of things. We shall return to this topic area shortly.

 

Reality.

More parents are being put in a position to take out loans just to get their kids through primary and secondary school terms. It used to be that parents had to do this far more so, just for third level education. Such is the continuing failures of elected to address a growing problem, parents are been left to suffer year after year at lower education levels too. It is a growing problem in financial numbers and a growing problem in terms of years, left unresolved.

A 2018 survey from the Irish League of Credit Unions has again exposed that there has been a rise in the number of people turning to moneylenders to pay for the likes of books and uniforms. A third of parents will be forced to deny children certain back-to-school items because they can’t afford them. The government says that there has been a drop in overall costs for parents. Again, reality within local towns exposes for many, a different life story.

In general, any decrease has come about due to falls in the prices for extra-curricular activities, transport and after-school care. Many of those already struggling however, cannot even gain access to extra-curricular activities. However, for the government, the PR of costs supposedly lowering overall, is a great vote gathering attempt. Again, when you examine on the ground reality of a situation, it’s not hard to spot flaws in government statements.

Per child, parents of primary-school children on average expect to shell out €1,000 yearly – while the cost for secondary is just short of €1,400 also conservatively.  A quarter of parents in debt have turned to moneylenders in struggling effort to handle back-to-school costs. 40% say they cannot not afford new school shoes for their children. Seven in ten say extra-curricular activities have to be cut out from the lives of their children due to lack of money. Children are also then left suffering emotionally as they see their wealthier friends go off and take part in such activities. More parents are increasingly been left feeling guilty for being unable to stop the emotional situation they see their children additional suffering from.

A fifth of those questioned by the Irish League of Credit Unions, said they face no choice but to cut spending on household bills. 15pc said spending on food does have to suffer. The latter is very self-evidence in local reality today.  School breakfast clubs – just like town food kitchens – are being created across the country in many schools. Teachers are tired seeing young children come to school half starved and because of this, have little energy to give towards maintaining any attention – which in turn means their ability to learn is weakened from the very beginning of the day. It’s all a domino effect.

 

Outdated.

Such is the ineffectiveness of elected on the topic of children’s education, they have so far also failed to address the increasing use of expensive electronic equipment or even books for them. The current back to school allowance doen’t take into account at all, the average €400 bill placed on each parent, per child. In fact, a child’s back to school allowance could be entirely used up on that one piece of equipment alone – before even anything else could be though of being tried bought. Elected are in no hurry to address this additional serious growing situation either. The silence from them is again deafening. Parents are left on their own yet again with a more costly problem. More stress for parents, more adult tears shed when the children are not around to see.

Then we have the cost of the actual books for the electronic devices!

 

More Reality.

Years ago or even now, when you buy a publication, you expect that the price will incorporate costs of materials used (ink, paper, etc.) plus a slice of overhead costs for the establishment selling it (wages for staff, lights, insurance, etc) plus a slice of hansom profit for the company doing all the selling. This was only to be expected. Businesses standard charge what they can most get away with. Many rarely consider lowering their profit margins so that people spend less.

Previously, when any book was in the physical creation process, works and text had to be inserted by many people though many consultations often. Today, using computer desktop publishing software, one person can combine it all in an afternoon or a few days by using graphic pads, keyboard and an electronic mouse. They then save their work to a computer electronic file. This eventual file (a book format – an “e-book”) can then be shared (copied in a second) onward to customers – at a price.

There’s no eventual paper book. On the likes of an iPad, Kindle, or other electronic device, what appears on screen comes from an original created file. This single file can then be copied hundreds, maybe many thousands of times, in an instant and shared. All this can be done by an automatic process or by even one person involved.

See the graphic example below. This is not fiction. This is just two (example) books that had to be ordered in 2018 for an iPad, for a second year student.

The book “Understanding Technical Graphics” had to be electronic created. In short, for this to manifest, a good bit of work had to be done. Skilled relevant technical people along with the book’s graphic designer, had to be involved in the publication process. Once that is done – that’s it. No paper-mills are needed. No buying of paper stock. No need for hiring additional staff to then print it all off on paper through expensive bought machinery. The work saved in an electronic format can then be copied many times in a second of time, 24 hours a day, all year. This too can be done without the use of additional humans. Year after decade, this process can happen.

Buying “Understanding Technical Graphics” then at a cost of €27.80 needs to be examined. What is the total costs involved in the creation of this book? Would those costs be recovered within the first or second month of it going on sale? If it wasn’t, someone seriously is yanking ‘others chains’ as regards production costs! After the initial costs are recovered, as each book is then electronic copied in a fraction of second, the sales figures rocket with every purchase. The profits rise. There is not additional paper need for the book, no extra print staff, no factories needed, etc. Of that €27.80, a far greater proportion of each sale is simply pure profit – and they are getting away with it.

To add insult to costly parent pocket injury, the Irish government wants it’s money-grab moment too. It slaps a whopping 23% tax on many items involved in the basic education of children nationwide. It appear that many are seeing the education of Ireland’s children as a great event to grasp as much cash as they can, from parents pockets. Education is no long operating for education sake. It’s a whopping massive tax and profit opportunity for those that see parents now as consumers – not primarily civilians struggling with already existing costs.

Like their physical paper school books, if the publishers wish to up their profits yet again massively, all they have to do is reword a paragraph, move around a graphic or alter it slightly, etc – all stuff that that can done now by one person in an afternoon. Then the book publishers turn around to parents:

The old edition is no longer of use. You must buy the new edition!

(Random info: The Scientology cult – like also many book publishers – worldwide has this racket down to a fine art.)

 

A Countrywide Uniform Issue.

To their great credit, many schools including the “Educate Together” school establishment growing in Ireland, have recognised that school uniform costs needs to be reduced. More power to them. The country needs more schools like “Educate Together” (LINK).

Sadly, we have to again report that other schools still force absolute crazy prices on parents when it comes to school uniforms. Here too, business monopolies are created at local levels. Parents are told they must have a particular jumper, pants or skirt etc, from one particular shop (or two, if you are lucky), at a price that business can most get away with charging.  One school in Louth previously insisted that only one type of (expensive) shoe must be worn by children into school. Once there, they reportedly must change out of these shoes into a particular type of slipper for internal wear, before changing again for home at the end of the day. Their school uniforms never come from the racks of Dunnes Stores, Penny’s or Primark, etc. No. Again, they must come more exclusively from local businesses that appear to have a tight local monopoly over items and imposed parental costs. A cosy monopoly again, most times expensive to parents.

 

Fees & Voluntary Contributions.

In regards to fees & voluntary contributions, this is another yearly scholastic racket that is still continuing – left again unaddressed properly by elected.

Every year parents across Ireland gain letters or emails asking for voluntary contributions. If they don’t ‘cough-up’ they are repeatedly spammed for such payments or their children are regular called aside in a classroom by an interrupting member of staff,  and handed yet another note “…for your parents to read when you get home“.

Payments usually range from €80 right up to €300+ for each student per school year. Despite the ‘voluntary’ wording being used, schools often claim these fees are essential. Some schools regular sent out email ‘Bills’ for such payments. Some additional add “if you cannot pay this, please come and talk to us” – making it all again sound like its compulsory. Many parents are left fearing that if they don’t pay this ‘bill’, would their own children then be treated different by those running the school? Out of possible emotional blackmail, parents then further struggle to pay this additional fee. (News LINK)

The Department of Education is on record stating:

Voluntary contributions are allowed but that it must be made absolutely clear to parents that it is not compulsory to pay and that, in making a contribution, they are doing so of their own volition.

…their collection should be such as not to create a situation where either parents or pupils could reasonably infer that the contributions take on a compulsory character.

Still many schools are chancing their arms. Many are carefully wording their sent out correspondence to parents, so that they legally they float somewhere between what is legal and what is not. In the end, many parents are pressured to cough-up what they often cannot afford. Parents are told to contact the Department of Education (LINK) regarding this matter  – but to date, there is still no public facility on their website to easy report such questionable activity. Why?

This overall fee situation like others wrote about here, has again gone on all too long. (News LINK)

Token words are offered up to media yearly by elected on this issue too. Actions to address the matter quickly then vanish at national and local levels. When was the last time you read in your provincial paper that a local elected person is actually doing something, for local parents, to resolve the area issue? Good luck searching your provincial papers for that issue and seeing someone, beyond PR words spoken, actually resolve it too!

 

So What Now?

ONE: The 23% government VAT on school books needs to go. If not on all levels, begin removing it from primary and secondary level books.

TWO: A section within the Department of Education needs to be established. This section will be specific tasked in looking after parental financial rights and school issues including books, business monopolies and additional rip-off costs.

THREE: Legislation clear needs to be far stronger and clearer regarding school uniforms. Local and national elected must stop being action-less on this matter.

FOUR: Legislation clear needs to be far stronger and clearer regarding fees & voluntary contributions. It also needs to be enforced more, otherwise all legislation is just another pointless, elected PR vote gathering exercise.

FIVE: The use of iPads and the purchasing of e-books for them, must be examined far closer. The costs involved for parents need to be addressed.

SIX: Elected must stop spouting “free education” for PR purposes – when clearly across Ireland is far from a reality in many growing counties filled also with parents.

SEVEN: The state must again address the absurd interest rates some money lenders are forcing on parents. These are parents also caught in a financial and emotional scholastic trap.

EIGHT: The Department of Education’s own website needs to be better – along with the department itself having better public available facilities.

NINE: Local and national elected must be overall acting all year, every year, for the people in their area as well as nationwide. Some speaking up briefly at an annular regular time like an alarm going off, is not good enough for parents any more. Actions speak louder than PR spouted words. Lets have more of the former and less of the latter.

TEN: Local provincial media, newspapers and radio, needs to be more highlighting these issues – and demanding from local elected that something be more done. In time, ask elected why they have not still got around to doing anything or giving little effort on this issue! In other words, seek on behalf of their listeners, greater accountability. A core aim of UnitedPeople.


Parents report going hungry over cost of sending their children to school – NEWS LINK

 

About Jeffrey Rudd

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