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Bill ready to secure full state funding for private primaries

Ljubljana, 13 February - More than two years after the Constitutional Court ordered parliament to institute equal state funding for public and private primary schools, the Education Ministry has submitted a corresponding legislative proposal to the government at last, but private schools are not yet satisfied.

A bill put forward to equalise public funding for private and state-run schools.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

The delay in the implementation of the late-2014 constitutional ruling was the reason for a failed opposition-sponsored motion of no-confidence in Education Minister Maja Makovec Brenčič in November 2016.

Under the valid organisation and financing of education act, state-approved curricula at private primaries get only 85% government funding.

Ruling that as unconstitutional, the top court ordered the National Assembly to amend the legislation by 9 January 2016 so that schools with publicly recognised curricula get equal state funding, regardless of whether they are private or public.

The ministry produced the amendments in April last year, but the process stalled due to lack of support within the coalition as the SocDems and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) joined the left-leaning opposition in proposing a constitutional amendment to limit public funding for private schools.

The proposal now put forward by the ministry appears to be a political compromise, providing for full financing of private schools with recognised curricula, but only for the minimum mandatory programme.

Meanwhile, only 85% funding is planned for the extended curriculum, which includes pre- and after-school care, remedial classes for struggling students and additional classes for top students.

Roman Globokar, director of the Catholic education institution Zavod Svetega Stanislava, says that such a proposal is not in accordance with the constitutional ruling, which only refers to mandatory primary education, rather than mandatory and extended public curricula.

"Following such a logic, the ministry could also say that even in the case of public schools full state funding is only obligatory for the mandatory public curriculum and not the extended," says Globokar, adding that private schools are obligated to provide pre- and after-school care.

Apart from tackling the funding of private schools, the amendments also tweak the requirements for the approval of schools' programmes, including that schools enable enrolment of students regardless of their personal circumstances such as race, religion and social standing.

If schools want their programmes approved, one provision stipulates that they need to contribute to enriching education space and supplementing the public education system, which some private schools deem too vague.

Another change affects the appointment and dismissal of school and kindergarten head teacher; the ministry's opinion on the candidate will again become binding on the school board, as it had been until 2006. The candidates will also have to recluse themselves from the procedure.

© STA, 2017