STA, 6 June 2019 - The government has confirmed a controversial legislative motion under which private primary schools are to get full state funding to teach publicly approved curricula, but what constitutes curricula has been effectively narrowed to the extent that private schools are calling it a betrayal of constitutional commitments.
The amendments to the act on the financing of education implements a 2014 Constitutional Court ruling mandating full rather than 85% state financing of publicly approved curricula at private primaries.
But 100% financing refers only to a narrowly defined mandatory programme, with services such as pre-school or after-school classes, which are otherwise a normal part of daily life at school, not financed at all. Similarly, any curricular content considered as above-standard will be exempted.
The amendments would apply to students who will start school next year, while those currently enrolled would be subject to the financing scheme currently in place: 100% financing of mandatory curriculum and 85% financing of expanded curriculum.
But private schools say that the bill contravenes the landmark Constitutional Court decision since it would affectively reduce financing from 85% to around 65%.
Education Minister Jernej Pikalo said that the proposal was based on the ministry's interpretation of the court's decision that what must be funded was the mandatory programme, and not also the extended programme.
The minister stressed that the primary school act did not define the latter as mandatory, although the state was currently financing it.
Regarding the premise that private schools would not be competitive if they did not provide pre-school or after-school classes, he said that the "network of public schools where all this is organised is available to every parent".
"They meanwhile have every right to enrol their children in a private school," Pikalo said, adding that the state did not want to limit the private initiative in education, "which must be present".
"But every country can decide on their own to what extent it will finance this private initiative and what the entry conditions will be," the minister said at a press conference as he presented the changes.
The centre-right opposition has long been vociferously opposed to the proposal arguing that it actually circumvents the Constitutional Court decision, and even some coalition partners have been reserved.
The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) said that the motion must not reduce the existing rights of private schools in this respect, while the Modern Centre Party (SMC) will listen to the opinion of the parliamentary legal service.
Brane Golubović, the head of the deputy group of the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), said the party believed the minister, adding that "we will examine all remarks from the public debate and make our decisions based on that".
On the other hand, opposition New Slovenia (NSi) president Matej Tonin said on Twitter that the government's proposal actually lowered the financing of private school "to the ridicule of children, parents and the rule of law".