Pay levy or we'll expel your child, parents told
Discovery College sparks fury with strict policy over new HK$5,900 charge for building repairs
Parents of students at Discovery College are angry about a school policy that may see their children thrown out if they don't pay an annual HK$5,900 building levy.
Many are considering cancelling automatic fee payments so the school cannot obtain the money without their approval.
In a letter sent to parents this month, the English Schools Foundation said the levy was to be paid monthly on top of the tuition fees, which range from HK$83,200 to HK$112,500.
If the payments fell overdue, students may be sent home and not re-admitted until the money was paid, along with at least two months' charges in advance, added the letter.
"Furthermore, there is no guarantee that an excluded student will be returned to his or her former class," it said.
The letter went on to state that tuition fees were increasing by 8 per cent, pending Education Bureau approval, and the rise would be backdated to the start of the academic year.
The levy was announced in 2011 but not implemented for two years and reduced from HK$9,500. The foundation said it was needed for maintenance at the Discovery Bay campus, but many parents protested that they had not been told of it when they enrolled their children.
Marcin Tadeusz Klocek, a member of a parents' concern group, was furious about the policy and said it threatened the educational opportunities of children whose parents did not want to pay the levy.
"The levy is only 5 per cent of all fees," he said. "How can children be kicked out of the school just because their parents fail to pay the 5 per cent? It's terribly unreasonable."
Klocek said that although he set the automatic-payment limit on his account at the monthly tuition fee rate, the school still managed to extract the levy during the two months when parents do not need to pay fees.
"This is against our explicit advice for the school not to do so," said Klocek.
An ESF spokeswoman said the college had not expelled any pupil for not paying the levy and that suspension would only be used when other approaches have been exhausted.
"We have financial assistance for families with genuine financial difficulties and we work very hard with them to keep their children at school," the spokeswoman said.
Lawmaker Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said the Legislative Council's complaints panel was arranging a meeting with the government over the levy and fee increase, and in the meantime payments for the levy should be halted and the fee rise frozen.
"A school should put education and children's well-being first," he said. "This is really outrageous. It's basically extortion."