This is about American practices but still:
When my kids started pre-kindergarten in New York last year, the school issued parents with a long list of items to buy and bring in. This was not, as in state school in Britain, a list of uniform and PE kit requirements but rather necessities including paper towels, glue sticks, a year’s supply of paper plates and plastic cutlery, cups, napkins, board markers, crayons and packing tape. Classroom supplies, in other words.
These donations were discretionary; no one was going to yell at you if you didn’t bring them in. And in the sheer volume of stuff being asked of each parent – for two kids in separate classes, it was way too much to be carried in on a single trip – the tacit understanding was that those who could afford it were providing for those who could not.
This seemed to me right and reasonable at the time. The New York education system is as cash-strapped as any and, at least in the small scale, asking affluent parents to help out makes sense.
Think of what the alternative is. A higher education budget. Which will be financed by the progressive system of taxation in use. Which would mean those who can afford it providing for those who cannot. Unless it’s all more moral if the money is collected a gunpoint - the ultimate force behind any system of taxation rather than donation - we don’t see a particular difference.
Except, of course, that this way the educational bureaucracy doesn’t get a slice of the budget. Perhaps it’s that which makes the direct donation something to abhor?