More parents need help paying "voluntary" school fees

More parents are having a difficult time covering costs connected to their children’s education, a nonprofit organization says. A thirty percent increase in parents applying for financial assistance to cover school cash contributions was reported by Leergeld, an organisation that helps parents cover the supposedly voluntary costs.

Just under 76,500 households applied for funding with the group in 2014, compared to slightly over 59,000 a year earlier, the group says. It equates to a 29.5 percent rise in applications.

The parental contribution is often requested for class field trips and arts lessons, with those coming under threat when parents cannot pay. These fees are on top of often expensive requirements, like schools mandating children have their own laptop computers for coursework, the organization says.

Research by the SP socialist political party suggests a similar sentiment. Parents say they are feeling increased pressure to pay the voluntary contributions, with many saying they are being forced to make the payments. Roughly 41 percent believe the “voluntary” payments are obligatory, the SP's survey of several hundred parents shows.

Contributions begin in the dozens, and hit a ceiling of about 1,000 euros per child per year, the foundation says.

“Twelve percent of children live below the poverty line,” says Leergeld director Gaby van den Biggelaar writes in a statement. This translates to about two to three kids per class.

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