Bowing down to pressure from parents, the Maharashtra state school education department on Monday announced that it will promulgate an ordinance to correct the Maharashtra Educational Institutes (Collection of School Fee) Regulation Act, 2011. Education minister Vinod Tawde on Tuesday said the ordinance will be proposed by the state soon after the expert panel appointed to review the Act files a report, which is expected in 15 days.
Since the state legislature is not in session, the state government cannot make amendments to the Act by passing it in the House. So keeping the urgency in mind, the government is coming up with an ordinance, which will be effective immediately (once it is passed) and binding on all schools.
In July, when the government will be back in session, the ordinance will be converted into a bill to amend the fee regulation Act. It will help make speedy amendments to the existing school fee regulation act, which will help in swift resolution of the ongoing fee hike disputes in Maharashtra, said Tawde.
Stating that the act needs to be amended immediately, Tawde said, “There are several flaws in the Act, and we won’t be able to resolve the school fee disputes until the Act is tightened.”
One of the major flaws in the current Act is that the executive committee of the parents teachers association (PTA) has the power to approach divisional fee regulatory committees against fee hikes. “Individual parents cannot complain to the DFRCs against the school fees even if they are unhappy with it,” said Tawde.
Another loophole is that the act doesn’t prescribe any ceiling or limit to the hike. It states that PTA or management can approach the divisional panels in case there is a difference of more than 15% between the hike proposed by the management and approved the PTA.
Parents have been voicing their opposition to the indiscriminate and unjustified fee hikes implemented by schools all over the state for the upcoming academic year, through several protests and meetings with the department. Their frustration reached a fever pitch last week when they gheraoed Tawde when he was attending a function in Pune.
Parents welcomed the decision but said that it whether it is helpful or not will depend on the ordinance. “The ordinance will have a good impact but what about complaints filed with the government prior to it, because it will not have a retrospective effect,” said Anubha Sahai, member of the Parents of Private Schools of Maharashtra (POPSOM).
But she added that the government must first implement the existing act properly. “Many of the disputes will be solved if the government invokes section 16 of the act and fixes the fees themselves,” said Sahai.