Cross-party consensus sought over private schools financing
Addressing reporters on Monday, Education Minister Jernej Pikalo said the ministry would send out the invitation to participate to various stakeholders, experts and representatives of private and public education, as well as all parliamentary parties.
The idea is for the group to draw up a legislative proposal that would be agreed not only among experts but also one that would have political support guaranteed to secure its passage in parliament.
Headed by Pikalo himself, the task force would not have any blueprint to work on, because he would like the group to reach a consensual solution themselves.
Although there is no guarantee they will succeed, "it's at least a step forward to tackling the matter (...) I hope in this way the matter, which has definitely been dragging on for too long, will be over with".
He could not say when a solution could be expected, but he did suggest that political support was essential, noting that there was no point submitting bill after bill, in particular when these did not have clear political backing.
In the most recent attempt, the Education Ministry proposed for the government to provide full funding for the mandatory part of the publicly approved curricula at private primary schools, while the schools would no longer get funds for activities such as pre- and after-lessons classes or remedial classes.
The bill containing such a solution was passed by the National Assembly, but the lower house then failed to muster sufficient majority in July to override a suspensive veto imposed by the upper chamber, the National Council.
Pikalo's latest offer has not been met with enthusiasm among the parties, with the opposition Democratic Party (SDS) flatly refusing the offer, and the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC), all but turning it down, while the other parties are yet to decide.
The opposition New Slovenia (NSi) plans to discuss the possibility of its participation in the task force at Tuesday's meeting with Pikalo. Similarly, the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and its coalition partner Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) are to decide on the offer shortly.
The SDS noted that it had filed its own bill to fully implement the Constitutional Court ruling, and the SMC, which too has been advocating implementing the ruling in full, said: "We don't think we need broad working groups to implement constitutional rulings, but merely the will and awareness about the significance of the rule of law."
Considering that Pikalo is a member of the Social Democrats (SD), these are expected to appoint their representative to the task force. The coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) has not commented on the proposal yet.
The opposition Left said its bodies would decide on the offer, should they get one, but the party said the only compromise for them would be setting down in the Constitution that the state has a duty to finance public education, while private education should be paid for by individuals opting for it.
The opposition National Party (SNS) will yet think about whether to participate in the task force, although its leader Zmago Jelinčič suggested the debate would be futile and would only serve to provide the audience while the ministry would try to have it their way.
Private primary schools get 85% of their expenses for publicly approved curricula covered by the government. The Constitutional Court decreed that they should get what public schools are entitled to, as long as they teach publicly approved curricula.