STA, 7 April 2020 - More than five years after deciding the state must provide equal funding for public and private primary schools, the Constitutional Court has specified that this applies only to the mandatory part of school curricula at private schools but not to non-mandatory curricula, such as morning and afternoon care, or remedial tutoring.
Announcing its decision on Tuesday, the court said that legislation stipulating that non-mandatory curricula at private schools get 85% of the funds provided for public schools was not unconstitutional.
The right to free primary education only applies to the mandatory curricula, which pupils in all primary schools must complete in order to finish school, the court said in the decision adopted on 12 March.
The state is obligated to allow a choice of different types of education, but it is not obligated to fund all the different types of education, the judges said.
They moreover said that private schools were not in the same legal position as public schools, because public schools must accept all pupils applying, while private schools do not.
The decision was the product of deliberations of several requests filed by parents of children attending private primary schools.
The decision was passed in a 6:1 vote, while two judges were recused. Judge Marijan Pavčnik meanwhile issued a dissenting opinion.
The nine-member court also criticised the National Assembly for failing to enact the court's late-2014 decision on the funding of private primary schools in a one-year period.
However, this has proven impossible, because the left-leaning parties opted to interpret the 2014 ruling in a way that could lead to a full scrapping of state funding of non-mandatory curricula, while the right-leaning ones want full state funding for private primary schools.
Although it believes parliament has violated the principles of the rule of law by failing to enact the court's decision, the court rejected the parents' request to define the manner in which the 2014 decision be implemented, meaning setting down the share of state funding for private school curricula.
Under the legislation still in place, the state provides 85% of funds for private primary school curricula, both mandatory and non-mandatory, as opposed to 100% for public schools.
Responses from political parties have been mixed. The senior coalition Democrats (SDS) believe the decision opens new questions. The party wonders why the court left out other curriculum activities, such as optional courses and activities, while expressly mentioning only morning and afternoon care, and remedial tutoring.
The Modern Centre Party (SMC) is happy with the decision, saying it reflected its position on funding, while the conservative New Slovenia (NSi) welcomed the decision for being a step closer to equal funding for all schools.
The opposition parties meanwhile welcomed the decision because they understand it as drawing a divide between public and private education. Former education minister and vice president of the Social Democrats (SD) Jernej Pikalo said the decision addressed existing unclarities and that it confirmed what the SD had been striving for all along.
The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) is also happy with the decision, while the Left said that the court only highlighted the decision it had already made in 2014. It believes that a solution would be to amend the Constitution so as to say that the state takes care of the public service, while private initiative is a matter of one's own responsibility.
While the Education Ministry told the STA it is yet to look into the decision, the Montessori private primary school in Ljubljana and a parents' civil initiative want the decision about 100% funding for mandatory curricula to be implemented as soon as possible.
Pavel Demšar, the headmaster of the Montessori school, said the decision announced today only confirmed the 2014 decision. He hopes the school's mandatory curricula will be fully funded as soon as possible, while saying that he needs more time to look into what the court said about non-mandatory curricula.