STA, 1 July 2019 - The parliamentary Education Committee has endorsed, in a narrow vote, a controversial government-sponsored bill designed to implement a 2014 Constitutional Court decision under which the state must provide 100% funding for publicly approved curricula taught at private primary schools.
The committee on Monday rejected all amendments, so the changes to the law on financing education will now be put to vote at a plenary in the form adopted by the government in early June.
Under the changes, the state is to finance fully publicly approved curricula at private primary schools. However, any publicly approved curricular content considered above-standard (pre- and after-school classes etc) will be exempted from state funding. At the moment, both programmes are funded 85%.
This is what the centre-right Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi), pushing for full state funding of all services, had tried to change with their amendments.
The amendments filed by four coalition parties, which had acted after the parliament's legal service found the changes rather problematic, were also voted down.
However, unofficial information indicates further changes are possible, as the coalition has not yet given up on trying to come to an acceptable model of financing.
The coalition is apprehensive the bill, if passed as it is, would be sent into constitutional review and found unconstitutional again.
If the state provides no funds for publicly approved above-standard activities which are part of normal daily routine, the overall funds Slovenia spends on private primary schools would drop.
The parliament's legal service believes the lower amount of public funding would encroach upon the legal position of private primary schools.
One of the amendments filed today by the ruling Marjan Šarec List's (LMŠ) had thus tried to raise the funding a bit.
It said the state would fund part of the publicly approved extra-curricular activities such as classes for under- and over-performing students and morning day-care for first graders.
The amendment was a kind of a compromise reached by four coalition parties bar the Social Democrats (SD), which met before the committee session to negotiate a deal.
The SD, on the other hand, insists on the original bill, which was drafted by the Education Ministry, led by Jernej Pikalo from its ranks.
During the debate Marko Koprivc of the SD said the bill was in line with the court decision, and he was happy it would not dismantle the network of public schools.
"For us, it would be absolutely unacceptable to finance public and private schools equally. This would lead to further stratification," he said.
The debate on the committee was expectedly held along partisan lines, focussing on differing views on public vs private education.
SDS and NSi MPs said passing the bill unchanged would be in breach of the court decision.
Jožef Horvat of the NSi criticised the coalition for wanting to "destroy private schools". "The bill contains some very clear signals that private schools are not welcome in Slovenia," he said, adding Slovenia would most probably find itself before the European Court of Human Rights.
The opposition Left, meanwhile, called for changing the Constitution, arguing it is not clear about financing private schools.
Several MPs regretted though that the court decision, made four and a half years ago, had not yet been implemented.
The bill will now be sent into second reading in the National Assembly, which has recently already held a public debate on it.
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