Uttarakhand hints at stoping RTE admissions
The Uttarakhand government has hinted that they will stop admitting children to private schools under the Right to Education (RTE) Act from 2018-19 academic session, putting at stake future of nearly 1.7 lakh students.
This comes amid allegations that the central government provided only a part of the funds for such students for 2015-16 and nothing thereafter due to which the fund-starved state’s liability towards the schools has increased.
The state government has yet to reimburse nearly 4,000 unaided schools Rs 100 crore in cumulative dues — tuition and annual fee --- for the students they had admitted under the RTE Act. The Act mandates all private schools, excluding unaided minority schools, to reserve 25% seats for students coming from socially and economically backward classes.
“We have to re-look at the RTE in the state,” Bhupinder Kaur Aulakh, school education secretary told Hindustan Times Friday. She blamed the Centre for not releasing the funds for last two academic sessions.
Under the RTE Act, Centre contributes to states 65% of the cost of providing free primary education. For north-eastern states, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand it is 90%. The state government selects students and allots them private schools, where they are granted free admission. The state government then reimburses the schools at a fixed rate.
Sources claim that Uttarakhand government, which is already battling with severe fund crunch, may terminate the programme. “The school education secretary has hinted at halting the programme, which is posing difficulties both for the private schools and also for the government,” a senior officer, requesting anonymity, said.
The private schools too have threatened to strike off the admissions if they dues along with accrued interest were not cleared soon.
“It is a difficult situation for private schools. They are already offering education to such students at a highly subsidised rate. The government owes some schools up to Rs 18 lakh,” Prem Kashyap, president of Progressive School Association, an umbrella organisation of nearly 170 private schools, said.
Kasyhap said the schools have liabilities too. “They have to pay salaries to teachers and staff, spend on infrastructure, and repay loans. If this continues, I am afraid we will be left with no choice other than to strike off the names of the students (already enrolled),” he added.
The association members also met finance minister Prakash Pant, but to no avail. The school education department claims to have sent several letters to the Centre in the past, but they failed to yield a positive result.
“We need to make modifications (to the Act) to secure the future of students,” Aulakh said.
As per figures available with school education department, for the academic session 2015-16, Centre paid Rs 39.80 crore against the total expenditure of Rs 49.55 crore.
In 2016-17, Rs 81.89 crore was spent on providing education to children from underprivileged families. The Union government didn’t provide any funds that year. With this, the total liability stands at Rs 91.64 crore. The department was yet to calculate the expenses incurred in academic session 2017-18. The cumulative dues are likely to exceed Rs 100 crore mark.
Incidentally, the number of children getting admissions under RTE quota too has seen a steady rise over the years. From nearly 83,000 such admissions in 2015-16, it has shot up to 1.7 lakh in 2017-18 and is likely to further rise in the next academic session.
As per the provisions of the RTE Act, Centre pays to school a monthly fee not exceeding Rs 1383 and an annual fee of Rs 2100 for uniform, meal and textbooks per child. Some schools even charge a nominal fee from such students.
The private school say the amount fixed by the government is too less as the actual monthly varies between Rs 2000- Rs 7000 depending on class. The average expense on uniform and textbooks is also in the same slab.