July 13, 2011
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According to data received from the state secretary of education, more than 80 state schools and kindergartens will be handed over to churches from 1 September, while at present there are according to the left-wing daily Népszava, 557 kindergartens and schools are operated by churches (but financed by the state). Over 50 of the 83-88 institutions will go to the Catholic Church.
The Teachers’ Union turned to the Constitutional Court already a year ago, when the government decided to make it financially more attractive for local governments to get rid of their schools: government schools receive half of their funding directly from the state, while the other half has to be provided for by the local government. Earlier, the local government had to continue funding schools handed over to churches for another five years (i.e. until after the next elections), while since last year, they are relieved from paying immediately, the central budget providing 100% of the funds needed for running sectarian schools. However, the Constitutional Court has not yet dealt with the issue, while in some places, no non-sectarian school will be available from September. Népszava knows of 19 such towns and villages.
According to the Teachers’ Union, a fresh bill has made it possible that local gorernments may hand over schools even int he middle of the school year if they claim they don’t have enough funds to operate them.
In the schools given to the churches, teacher will loose their status as state employees, and the Teachers’ Union is not allowed to operate in them.
Sectarian schools usually prefer children from well off homes; while 32% of children in state schools are from disadvantaged or highly disadvantaged backgrounds, their ratio in sectarian schools is 18% (the ratio is worse for highly disadvantaged pupils, who make up for 13% of state school attendees but only for 4% in sectarian schools). There are some sectarian schools especiall for the underpivileged, but ironically one of the religious communities running them, the Dhai Bhim will probably be stripped of their church status by the new church law.