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Pikalo Wants to Continue Discriminating Against Children in Catholic Schools

The National Assembly has adopted an amendment to the law regulating the seven-year-old decision of the Constitutional Court on the co-financing of private schools. The coalition MPs stressed that there should be no discrimination between children, so in addition to the compulsory part, they also added funding for the implementation of the expanded programme in 85 percent. Former Minister of Education from the ranks of the SD party, Jernej Pikalo, expressed his belief that this is a case from which private schools will benefit heavily. Given that private schools are classified as non-profit organisations, Pikalo’s statement is, of course, not true, as all the funds that the schools acquire must be invested back into the educational process. SDS MP Mojca Škrinjar pointed out that in this case, the amounts are small and reach about 250 thousand euros. In any case, this is just a drop in the ocean against the billions of funds in education, as well as against the projects in which billions have disappeared (also) under the leadership of the SD party.

The proposed amendment to the Organisation and Financing of Education Act, which was submitted to the parliamentary procedure in early May by the SDS, NSi and SMC deputies, envisages that the state provides 100 percent of the funds for the compulsory programme and 85 percent of the funds for the implementation of the extended programme, that is, supplementary classes, after school care, and morning care in privately-owned primary schools. Deputies from the SDS, SMC, NSi, SNS parties, as well as the independent MPs, voted in favour of the proposed amendment, while the MPs from the left-wing opposition parties voted against it.

In 2014, the Constitutional Court noted for the first time that privately-owned primary schools with a publicly valid and accredited programme are not funded in an equal manner to public schools and decided that the compulsory programmes must be 100 percent publicly funded. Since then, several proposals for the implementation of the decision of the Constitutional Court have infamously failed because there was never sufficient political support for any of the proposed solutions. With last year’s additional constitutional decision, the court then decided that the state must finance 100 percent of the mandatory part of the programmes, and the government will voluntarily finance 85 percent of the implementation of the extended programme, as the MPs believe that there should be no differences made among children.

SDS MP and Deputy Chair of the Committee on Education, Science, Sport and Youth, Mojca Škrinjar, pointed out on behalf of the proponents that their proposed amendment ensures the exercise of the human right to free choice of education, and the Constitutional Court said that adequate funding must be provided for education. The coalition believes that the extended programme should be financed as well, as the children have the right to afternoon care as well. She also pointed out that these are not some large sums: “This change will cost the state budget around 250 thousand additional euros a year. What is the difference between a billion euros, which is the amount that is currently allocated for primary education, and this added cost? And besides, it is not the schools that are being funded, but the programme. People are trying to turn this into a witch hunt. This medieval mentality must be overcome. So, if this child would not be in a private school and would instead be enrolled in a public school, the state could then pay for this programme?”

The opposition did not eliminate the discrimination against children for seven years
As Peter Jančič pointed out in his column, the opposition parties were united when they strongly insisted on discrimination against children in the Alojzij Šuštar Primary School. Deputies from the SDS, SMC and NSi parties proposed what the Constitutional Court already demanded for children seven years ago: that the state should pay the same for teachers of mathematics in Alojzij Šuštar Primary School and, for example, Jožeta Moškriča Primary School in Nove Jarše. Young children at a school that is part of a Catholic institution are just as valuable when it comes to primary education as those at regular public schools across the country. “Members from Marjan Šarec’s LMŠ party, Tanja Fajon’s SD party, Luka Mesec’s Levica party, and Alenka Bratušek’s SAB party, strongly opposed this, just like they have already done in the past, and also voted against this simple, legal and obligatory request by the Constitutional Court, which should have already been implemented more than five years ago. But they failed to implement it,” Jančič added.

As Škrinjar described, former Minister of Education from the ranks of the SD party, Jernej Pikalo, wants to turn this into a witch hunt, as he is convinced that this whole thing is actually about money and not the children. “The usual demagoguery of the right-wingers is that this is about children. It is not about the children; it is about the money. The money from all of us, which is being poured into private pockets of the owners of private schools, month after month, without any restrictions,” he believes. When he himself was preparing the amendment to the law, he did not want to finance the additional activities and thus treated the children who attend private schools differently from those who attend public schools. Also, the SD party did not care about money at all when billions were disappearing into “successful” projects.

Billions disappeared during the SD party’s rule, but now 250 thousand euros are problematic?
“Six private schools and a few hundred thousand euros of extra money is, of course, not a financial tragedy for the state budget. But every euro that goes to the owners of private schools could be spent elsewhere in education, where it could have wider and more developing effects,” Pikalo said, thus making it clear to private schools as well that he sees no development potential in their institutions, only in public education. In his article, the member of the successor party of the former communist party accuses private schools of particularism, which is actually the most widespread in public universities. “When they had the power and authority, they gave more to their children and less to those from predominantly Catholic families. They violated the constitutional order and did not even try to hide it. They cheated. They discriminated. Against their own people. Because, apparently, they are not enough for them,” Jančič was critical of Pikalo’s way of thinking.

The opposition was strongly against the amendment
The opposition is strongly opposed to the adoption of the new amendment to the law. LMP MP Aljaž Kovačič rejected the argument that the financing of private primary schools will only cost about 300 thousand euros. According to him, “in this case, the issue is not money, but a system that provides every child, regardless of nationality, race, gender, language, religion, social status, political or any other belief, with quality and accessible education.” On the other hand, SD MP Marko Koprivc described the amendment as an attempt to destroy public education. “In the SD party, we will fight against it with all of our might. If reason does not prevail today, we will use all means necessary to prevent this law from coming into force. We are not even ruling out the possibility of a referendum,” the MP announced. According to him, the financing of the extended programme in primary schools is nothing more than a political decision and is also an inappropriate gift to private schools.

Sara Rančigaj

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