STA, 17 April 2020 - Nation-wide primary school exams have been cancelled due to the coronavirus situation, the Education Ministry announced on Friday. This is the first time the exams for sixth and ninth grade students have be cancelled since their introduction 20 years ago. Headteachers have welcomed the decision.
The decision not to hold the exams as schools are closed and children learning at home was taken on the basis of an assessment made by key education stakeholders, Minister of Education, Science and Sport Simona Kustec said in a release.
Nevertheless, the nation-wide tests will be made available online for teachers and students to reinforce what students have already learned.
Sixth graders take exams in mathematics and Slovenian (Italian and Hungarian for minority members in bilingual areas) as well as in a foreign language, which is English or German. Ninth graders also take the exams in maths and mother-tongue plus in a third subject which varies.
The exams, which are not compulsory, are taken in early May. This year's exams for third garde students, which were introduced in the 2017/2018 year, were cancelled already last month.
A decision to hold Matura - the school-leaving exam for secondary school students - has already been taken recently. But Kustec said in an interview for the newspaper Dnevnik, which will be fully run on Saturday, that it will be held in a somewhat changed format.
Students will write the Slovenian language essay on 1 June instead of 5 May, which is a major difference from the standard schedule.
Just like every year, however, secondary school students in their last year will end school on 22 May and all the others on 24 June.
The minister, however, was unable to say earlier this week when kindergartens and schools could reopen, stressing it would depend on an expert assessment that this could be done safely.
The government has already started to relax some of the restrictions imposed after the epidemic was declared on 12 March, but schools are very unlikely to reopen soon.
In his first reaction to the news, the head of the Association of Primary and Music School Headteachers, Gregor Pečan, said that while schools were yet to be formally notified of the decision, which he expects today, he is "grateful that common sense has prevailed".
"I absolutely agree the primary school national exams are cancelled, because it would be impossible to provide for credible exams in this situation," he said in a statement for the STA, adding it would make no sense to hold them for their own sake.
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STA, 29 January 2020 - The number of students with special needs in primary and secondary schools in Slovenia has been rising in recent years. Almost 7% of primary school students and even more secondary school students have been formally recognised as having a disability that qualifies them for special treatment. Opinions on the reasons why this is so vary.
Data from the Education Ministry show that in the 2015/2016 school year, 5.91% of primary school students had an eligibility decision guaranteeing special treatment based on their disability; in this school year the share rose to 6.97%, which means 13,075 students.
A similar trend can been seen with secondary school students, where the ministry has been keeping records since 2010/2011. In the last decade, the share of special needs students almost doubled from 3.36% to 7.27% (5,331 students).
By far the largest share of eligibility decisions issued by the Education Institute, are for learning disabilities. For primary school students this share is at 40% and for secondary school students at over 50%.
These statistics have prompted the Education Ministry to open a debate on whether any changes are needed in the current system.
There have been questions as to whether there are indeed more children with special needs, or whether society has only become more sensitive to disabilities.
The head of the department for children with special needs at the Education Institute, Natalija Vovk Ornik, believes the answer is a little bit of both.
She thinks the reasons for the higher share of children with special needs could be medical progress, larger cohorts, the impact of the environment, or a number of other factors.
"One of the reasons is definitely that the diagnostic standards for recognising certain disabilities have changed, and the awareness of both experts and the public about disabilities in general has increased," she said.
She thinks the system is not being abused very often. But there are various types of "pressure" coming from parents as well as daycare centres and schools for a child to receive the eligibility decision and thus additional assistance, she said.
Janja Čolić, a teacher at the Janko Kersnik Brdo primary school, agrees. "Indeed, we are better at recognising children with special needs today. But on the other hand, it also happens that parents and teachers immediately think of additional assistance when a child is not performing well, rather than analysing potential causes in more detail.
"All too often parents are the initiators of additional assistance when they are not happy with their child's grades, as Cs and Ds are no longer acceptable grades in primary school," she said.
Meanwhile, an association bringing together representatives of school councils warns that parents are not to be blamed for the rise in the share of students with special needs.
They note that parents indeed have the right to initiate the procedure but that the final decision is made by a commission of experts and the Education Institute.
They believe the Education Ministry should conduct an independent analysis to determine whether the number of eligibility decisions is indeed too big and then determine why this is so.
They also propose several changes to the decision-making process, most notably uniform criteria.
The Education Institute agrees changes are needed. Vovk Ornik thinks the types of assistance that a child with special needs is entitled to should be determined by law. She also called for changes to the composition of the commission and the conditions for initiating the procedure.
STA, 18 December 2019 - The National Assembly passed on Wednesday a proposal tabled by the opposition Left introducing an extra day of paid leave for the parents of first-graders on their first school day. The law applies to both the private and public sectors.
The head of the Left deputy group, Matej T. Vatovec, said on Tuesday that public sector officials already have the right to paid leave on the first day of school of their first-graders, which puts those working in the private sector and their children in an unequal position.
Deputy groups agreed that this inequality should be done away with and backed the Left's proposal.
Karla Urh of the senior coalition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) said the first school day was a stressful experience for a child, which was why children should be accompanied to school by their parents, regardless of where the latter were employed.
The coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and the opposition Democrats (SDS) agreed this was an exceptional day for every child and parent.
There is no excuse for this discrimination between those working in the public and private sectors, they argued.
The opposition National Party (SNS) praised the proposal as "good or very good", while the coalition Social Democrats (SD) noted that schools even expected that children were escorted by their parents on the first day.
The coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) said the unanimous support was an "important indicator of an advanced society guaranteeing equal rights to all".
Aleksander Reberšek of the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) regretted the fact that the proposal had not been backed by the Economic and Social Council (ESS), Slovenia's main industrial relations forum.
Mojca Žnidarič of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) said the social dialogue was "obviously" weakening and that the passage of the bill could be a dangerous precedent for passage of bills without a consent from social partners.
The ESS voiced objections to the proposal last week, saying that employees were free to take one day of leave whenever they want as it was and that parents of children of up to the age of 15 had one extra day of leave.
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STA, 2 September 2019 - After ten weeks of holidays, a new school year starts on Monday in Slovenia for roughly 74,000 secondary school students and 187,525 primary school children.
It was an especially big day for the 20,840 six-year-olds who entered school for the first time in their lives with schools throwing reception parties to welcome them in their midst.
In his message at the start of a new school year, Education Minister Jernej Pikalo wished everyone to benefit from school for new knowledge and friendships, assessing that school was one of the best social subsystems in Slovenia.
Meanwhile, President Borut Pahor encouraged students to welcome new knowledge with open minds, and above all to think about everything with their own heads.
As is usual for this time of year, campaigns have been launched to raise awareness among drivers and the public of the presence of schoolchildren in traffic, promote tolerance and safety.
Police officers and volunteers from motorists' associations are seeing to the safety of schoolchildren, in particular the youngest ones at spots where they are most exposed to risk.
Year-one kids were wearing yellow neckerchiefs and holding yellow balloons to alert drivers to watch out for them.
At the Simon Jenko primary school in Kranj, Slovenia's football team members helped pupils cross the street, with Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek highlighting the importance of visibility and caution in traffic.
There will be some changes awaiting primary schoolchildren such as updated syllabus for Slovenian and the optional subject beekeeping, and new optional subjects of film education and Slovenian sign language.
Marking the introduction of the latter, Pikalo visited on Monday the Ljubljana School for the Deaf, welcoming primary school children and wishing them they would feel good in school every day and not just on their first day. The school provides education for 27 year-one kids this year, including five deaf pupils.
New courses await secondary school students and an extended selection of courses in which they can do apprenticeship. Those coming of age will no longer be able to write their own excuse notes.
Teachers will benefit from higher salaries as these will go up by one pay bracket as of 1 November. Form teachers will get a pay rise as early as this month.
The longest term holidays this year will be for Christmas and New Year, between 25 December and 5 January. The first break will be the week between 28 October and 1 November.
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STA, 15 July 2019 - The National Council, the upper chamber of parliament, vetoed on Monday legislative changes that cut state funding for private primary schools, arguing the cut was in opposition to the Constitutional Court decision ordering that funding be equalised with that for public schools.
The veto could spell trouble for the controversial changes, adopted last week in a 42:36 vote after a tug-of-war over the interpretation and enforcement of a 2014 top court ruling.
For the lower chamber to override veto, the changes would require absolute majority, meaning 46 MPs. The repeat vote is expected to be held on Thursday, but Gregor Perič of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), the coalition party that abstained from voting last week, already confirmed today the SMC would not change its mind and could not support the bill.
He said the SMC was not afraid of its decision having political consequences, arguing the party had played with open cards all along.
The councillors who filed the veto proposal argued the changes mean a cut in funds and run contrary to the December 2014 decision of the Constitutional Court that ordered full state funding for publicly approved curricula.
The opponents of the changes claim the legislator introduced an unfair distinction between publicly approved curricula and those that obtained public certification, the latter applying for private schools.
The changes introduce full state funding for the segment of private schools curricula corresponding with the public curricula, but completely scrap state funding for additional programmes, which continue to be covered for public schools.
Until now, private schools got 85% of the total state funding received by public schools. Opponents of the changes say that the cut also affects programmes that are part of compulsory primary education, which runs against public interest.
Education Minister Jernej Pikalo defended the changes today, arguing they were in line with the Constitutional Court ruling.
He said international documents also clearly stated that while the state should enable parents to raise their children in line with their world view, the state was not obliged to fund this.
A special commission of the National Council met ahead of today's vote to reject the veto proposal 6:1, with its chair Branimir Štrukelj arguing that private education caused segregation.
National Council president Alojz Kovšca disagreed, saying this was a political and ideological issue, while some councillors argued there are regions in Slovenia where parents do not have the option to send their child to a private school at all.
The opposition right-leaning parties rejected the changes last week. While the Left backed the coalition to help pass them, the SMC abstained from voting.
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STA, 10 July 2019 - The National Assembly passed on Wednesday the controversial government-sponsored changes to the law on the financing and organisation of education which alter the way in which the state funds private primary schools.
The bill was backed in a 42:36 vote despite criticism, also among some coalition parties, that it falls short of implementing a constitutional court decision on 100% state funding of publicly approved curricula at private primary schools.
It sets down the state fully financing publicly approved curricula at private primary schools, but any publicly approved curricular content considered above-standard (pre- and after-school classes etc) will be exempted from state funding.
Since both programmes are now funded 85%, the new legislation means the amount of public funds received by private primary schools will drop.
The bill has been strongly criticised by two centre-right opposition parties and by parents of the children going to half a dozen private primaries for not providing 100% funding as ordered by the court in December 2014.
It has also been criticised by the government and parliament's legal services, which warned it could be unconstitutional, noting it would worsen the legal position of private primary schools with parents paying more for their children's education.
But the new financing regime will not apply to those who are already in primary school. It will only start applying to those who start primary school in the 2020/2021 school year.
The changes were backed by four of the five coalition parties with the help of the opposition Left and both minority MPs.
The coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) abstained, while the opposition Democrats (SDS), New Slovenia (NSi) and National Party (SNS) voted against.
Defending his bill after the vote, Education Minister Jernej Pikalo of the Social Democrats (SD) said parliament "draw a clear line between private and public education".
He said this concept had already been set down in the 1995 White Paper on Education, and had now only been confirmed in parliament.
"It is not about whether I'm happy or not. My key task is to try to improve the education system," he said, adding he was not worried about a constitutional review.
Stressing many laws are sent to the Constitutional Court, Pikalo said "this is a normal process in a democracy ... Every branch of power has its own tasks and does its part of the job".
As reflected by the vote, today's parliamentary debate brought no convergence of stances on the legislation.
The Left's Miha Kordiš, however, explained the party had decided to support the bill "because it does not improve the status of private schools".
The party believes that public money should be spent on public schools, and that the Constitution should be changed to draw a clear line between private and public.
Tomaž Lisec of the SDS accused the supporters of the bill of cutting the funds for private primary schools, thus causing discrimination "because of leftist ideology".
Gregor Perič of the SMC said "the bill is far from what we should do".
His party colleague Igor Zorčič added that "if the court said the 85% funding is too low for private schools, we cannot pass a bill which further cuts the funds".
Jožef Horvat of the NSi believes the rule of law is at stake in this case. "If the legislator was not able to change a simple article in four and a half years to implement the court decision, then we have a problem with the rule of law."
He noted that only 0.84% of primary school children go to private schools, so another EUR 300,000 spent on them would be no problem for the national budget.
Aljaž Kovačič of the Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ) assessed the court decision was not that straightforward as some would like to think, but said the LMŠ trusted Pikalo that the bill implemented it.
Supporting the bill, Maša Kociper of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) wondered whether it was reasonable that a mere "nine Constitutional Court judges decide on the most vital social issues".
Matej Tonin (NSi), on the other hand, reiterated his view that the court should first annul the new law and then implement its decision from 2014 itself.
Disappointment was also expressed by the parents of the children going to private schools.
They hope the bill will be vetoed by the upper chamber and then voted down when it is put to a revote in the lower chamber, where it will need at least 46 votes.
Marko Balažic of the United Parents civil initiative warned the bill would introduce elitism, as many parents could not afford to pay the school fee any more.
The school fee for the publicly approved curriculum will more than double, with the cost of the above-standard curriculum also rising, he said.
Balažic said that Prime Minister Marjan Šarec had sacrificed the rule of law for the survival of the ruling coalition.
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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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STA, 26 June 2019 - The parliamentary legal service has issued its opinion on the controversial bill on the funding of private primary schools related to a Constitutional Court decision, saying it is questionable in several places from the aspect of constitutional order, and even unconstitutional in certain points.
The nine-page opinion was issued after the bill passed first reading in the National Assembly last week and as the parliamentary Education Committee was scheduled to debate it again today, but postponed the session after the legal opinion was issued.
Under the bill, private primary schools are to get full state funding to teach publicly approved curricula, with pre-school or after-school classes, which are otherwise a normal part of daily life at school, not financed at all.
In the amendments to the act on the financing of education, which is meant to implement a 2014 Constitutional Court ruling mandating full rather than just 85% state financing of publicly approved curricula at private primaries, any curricular content considered as above-standard will be exempted.
The parliamentary legal service says in its opinion the main shortcoming of the bill is the "strict focus of the initiator on realising very narrowly defined goals".
The government proposes broader and, in certain points inconsistent, changes to the existing education system compared to those demanded by the Constitutional Court, while not providing well argued reasons for this, it added.
The legal service has also made remarks on concrete articles, including the one on the funding of private primary schools, establishing that the proposed amount of public funds for this purpose would actually be lower compared to the current amount.
"The lower amount of public funding thus encroaches upon the legal position of private primary schools," it says, adding that private schools could transfer the burden of financing on the student's parents.
According to the legal service, this worsens the legal position of students and their parents, who could not count on such an initiative from the government in the wake of the Constitutional Court's decision.
It adds that the government has failed to explain what the public interest is that justifies the worsening of the legal position of private primary schools and their students and their parents.
There is also no explanation in the bill as to why the government is abolishing the co-funding of the part of the extended programme which is uniformly specified for all primary schools in Slovenia.
The bill also opens up several questions about compliance with the general principle of equality before the law, it says, adding the proposal that the educational programme of private schools must differ from that in public schools is also disputable.
What is more, the differentiation between publicly approved curricula and curricula that have gained public validity could be disputable from the aspect of the constitutional right to the freedom of expression, and from the aspect of the constitutional prohibition of discrimination based on personal circumstances.
Following the legal service's opinion, coalition parties met to discuss the new development, opting to postpone the Education Committee's session. The committee then put the debate off by a few days.
MP Marko Koprivc of the Social Democrats (SD), who gave the initiative for the postponement, said they had only just received the legal service's opinion, so they had not had the time to study it yet.
Education Minister Jernej Pikalo welcomed the committee's decision to postpone the session, saying it was right the legal service's opinion was studied, "especially if we want to have quality legislation".
Nevertheless, he defended the solution to fund the mandatory part of publicly approved curricula 100% and not to fund any extra activities at all. He insists this is in line with the court's ruling.
However, since last week, the opposition has already filed a number of amendments. The Democrats (SDS) would not just like private primary schools which teach publicly approved curricula to get full state funding, they also propose that private music and secondary schools get 85% of its costs covered by the state.
During last week's parliamentary debate, only the parties of the minority coalition supported the bill, but some of them only under certain conditions. Some of them announced their final opinion would depend on the opinion of the parliament's legal service, so further changes during the legislative seem possible.
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".
STA, 3 April 2019 - Education Minister Jernej Pikalo has announced that the coalition has come up with an agreement on the state funding of private primary schools, under which the mandatory state-approved curriculum would be fully funded, but the extended curriculum would not get any funds.
The announcement on Wednesday comes as the five-member minority coalition is trying to implement the Constitutional Court's ruling from 2014 mandating full state funding of private primary schools teaching state-approved curricula.
Currently, private primary schools have 85% of both their mandatory public curriculum and extended programme covered by the state. Extended programme includes remedial classes for struggling students and additional classes for outperforming students, as well as pre- and after-class activities.
Under the planned changes to the organisation and financing of education act, the generations already attending primary schools would have their mandatory public curriculum fully financed, while extended programme would be financed at a 85% rate.
For the generations enrolled after the changes enter into force, mandatory public curriculum would be fully financed, while extended programme would not be financed, Pikalo explained.
He added that the proposal, which will now enter public consultation, clearly defined the conditions for such state funding and instructions to institutions on how to meet these conditions.
The minister hopes the public consultation would result in a solution which would be accepted before the start of the next school year.
Pikalo noted that the wording of the changes had been discussed today only by the coalition, adding that the talks with the Left, the government's tentative partner from the opposition, would be held separately.
Announcing the proposal, the minister said that it implemented the Constitutional Court's decision on the one hand, and protected the network of public schools on the other.
He said that the proposal "brings together what is sometimes perceived as impossible", adding that his personal opinion was that it was not right that same primary education programmes were funded differently.
Pikalo said he would look to secure the broadest possible consensus on the proposal, adding that he would present it to all parliamentary deputy groups.
But the first reactions from the opposition are that the proposal is unconstitutional, while some coalition parties are also cautious despite the minister saying that the proposal had been agreed on.
The Democrats (SDS) noted that the Constitutional Court's decision stipulates full funding of publicly approved programmes, where extended programmes belong.
Tomaž Lisec, an MP of the largest opposition party said on Twitter that the proposal was "unconstitutional".
The opposition New Slovenia (NSi) said it supported "100-percent funding of publicly approved programme, without the artificial differentiation between the mandatory and extended part."
The NSi noted that a very small number of private primary schools in Slovenia would be eligible for full funding under that proposal. "This would not threaten public education in any way," the party said on Twitter.
Aljaž Kovačič of the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) said it was only a proposal on which other stakeholders would give their opinion, adding that constitutional experts would also needed to be consulted.
Igor Zorčič, the head of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) deputy group, said the party expected from Pikalo to consult jurists on whether the proposal was appropriate in order to prevent possible new unconstitutionalities.
The proposal is supported by Pikalo's Social Democrats (SD) and the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), with the latter saying that the public education network should be protected.
In Slovenia, primary education is provided to all children, the SAB said, adding that Slovenia was one of the least socially stratified societies in the world, which needed to be preserved.
The party believes that the "material Minister Pikalo presented to the coalition parties, despite some remarks, addresses the issue appropriately".
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