This week, two associations with apparently distant interests such as CICAE – which defends the interests of private schools – and CEAPA – a secular and progressive confederation of parents of public school students – presented a report that claimed that 90% of concerted centers charge a monthly base fee and 76% do it on a mandatory basis. A very serious accusation, since it would contravene the Organic Law of the Right to Education that protects free compulsory education in centers supported by public funds.
For the preparation of this report, Garlic B2B –the company in charge of the study– used a methodology mystery shopper pretending to be families requesting information for the registration of their children for this course. «We have difficulty obtaining information that clearly indicates to families the rates and contributions they have to make, in terms of what they charge, the hours or the content that justifies their payment. In some cases we must insist to the schools up to ten times, in others they provide very complete commercial information, but do not include the fee, and 44% of the centers do not deliver any document with the prices of the complementary fees. », says Amparo Núñez, project director of the consulting firm that has prepared the report.
The study also states that in 18% of cases there is a risk of exclusion for the student whose family does not pay the fee, a figure that increases to 31% in the Community of Madrid. “In these centers, the student could not attend complementary activities with the rest of the students, so the family would have to go pick him up or be isolated from the group in another space in the school,” adds the report.
After the publication of this study, the concerted party has not been slow to respond. Catholic Schools, one of the largest organizations that brings together several concerted centers, has accused CEAPA and CICAE to prepare a «pincer effect» with the aim of “eliminating the competition that concerted education entails at a time when the birth rate is declining.”
The INE calculates that, between now and 2030, the Infant and Primary population will fall by 18%
This decrease has meant that, for the first time in twenty years, the academic year has started with fewer students. In fact, the INE calculates that between now and 2030, the population of the second cycle of Pre-school – from 3 to 6 years old – and Primary will fall by 18%, with the consequent reduction in the demand for private and concerted centers.
“Questioning the model”
The issue of birth, however, is not the only thing that hides this attack. For Jesús Muñoz de Priego, an expert lawyer in Educational Law, it is rather “a questioning of the model”. “Those who defend only public and those who bet on private payment only come together, like strange bedfellows, to question a model that is widely chosen and supported by society,” he adds.
Muñoz de Priego points out that, if they had found illegalities, they should have reported it to the Administration to purge responsibilities.
In fact, this lawyer criticizes the references made by the representatives of these associations to article 88 of the LOMLOE, referring to free guarantees. Elena Cid, general director of CICAE, assured that the Celáa law expressly prohibits the collection of fees in the aforementioned article. “The law is not being complied with, they charge fees for contributions, educational projects or mandatory complementary activities within school hours and, in addition, they do so for essential curricular content,” says Cid.
This article establishes that, in order to guarantee the schooling of all students without discrimination for socio-economic reasons, “in no case may public or private centers receive amounts from families for receiving free education, impose on families the obligation to make contributions to foundations or associations or establish compulsory services, associated with teaching, that require financial contributions from the families of the students.
The truth is that this article was already in the previous educational law, the Wert law, without changing a comma. “Ignorance or manipulation is great and the concept of illegal quotas is mixed with interest in the discourse, with perfectly regulated quotas for activities and services and absolutely legitimate voluntary contributions», explains Muñoz de Priego. “The only thing missing is for someone to come and tell me where I can or cannot make the donations that I want.”
The government takes advantage of the situation
The Minister of Education, Pilar Alegría, has spoken on the subject, assuring that, if there are concerted centers imposing quotas, “the Autonomous Communities, through inspection, have to act.”
This situation has been particularly opportune for the central government that maintains its particular war with Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who precisely opted for the armoring of concerted education through the Master Law of Educational Freedom approved at the beginning of the year. At that time, CICAE pointed out that said shielding implied “an insurmountable barrier” for families who could not access the concerted programs for economic reasons.
This association was also very critical of the Madrid president when she decided to raise the salary ceiling when requesting scholarships, which they considered “discrimination” that allows the concerted party to maintain a “two-way financing”.
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The truth behind the private attack against educational concerts
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