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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

New bill in Maharashtra to allow 76% parents or PTA to clear fee hike in private schools

Earlier, only the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) executive body, comprising parent representatives and teachers, had the right to clear the fee hike proposal.

mumbai Updated: Nov 27, 2018 00:35 IST
Faisal Malik
Faisal Malik
Hindustan Times
Picture for representation only.
Picture for representation only.

Amid the din over Maratha reservation, the state Assembly on Monday cleared a crucial amendment to the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of fee) Act that lays down fresh provisions to clear fee hikes in schools.

Earlier, only the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) executive body, comprising parent representatives and teachers, had the right to clear the fee hike proposal. But the amendment allows school managements to hike fees either through the approval of the executive committee of the PTA or by a simple majority of parents of 76% of school students in unforeseen circumstances. These provisions will be applicable to private unaided and permanently unaided schools. The bill will now be placed before the legislative Council for approval, after which the amendments will come into effect.

Also, in a first, parents aggrieved by the fee hike decision can challenge it, by moving the Divisional Fee Regulatory Committee (DRFC). The option can be availed only if 25% of the affected parents oppose the hike.

Parents’ associations have termed the amendment “pro-management”, claiming “it ignores their objections”. Parent bodies want every parent to get the right to challenge or complain against fee hike.

The amendment also allows school managements to charge a late payment fee with penal interest. Parents said this clause could be used as a pressure tactic to ensure there is no opposition to the hike. However, the government has reserved the right to decide the rate of penal interest.

State education minister Vinod Tawde defended the amendment saying it had introduced appeal provision for the first time and laid down restriction on the extent of hike. “Parents can approach DRFC against fee hike, which they couldn’t do earlier. We can’t allow every parent to approach DFRC against the hike, as it will become impossible for managements to run schools,” Tawde said. “The fresh provisions allow parents to know the fee structure for every Class and cap the hike to 15%, that too only once in two years.”

The minister said school managements will have to approach DFRC to get a go ahead for a fee revision done under “unforeseen circumstances”.

The bill allows the parents to pay fees for the full or half the year. Through another clause, the state has also allowed the managements to declare standard-wise fee structure (from Class 1 to 10) at the time of admissions to the students or in parts. If the structure is declared in parts, fee structure for the remaining part has to be declared at least one year before the commencement of the academic year.

Similarly, schools that don’t declare the fee structure at the time of admission will be eligible to propose a fee hike which shall not be more than 15%.

Move pro-management: Parents

While the state Assembly on Monday cleared the amendment to the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of fee) Act, parents have termed the change “pro-management”.

Anubha Sahai, president, Indiawide Parents Association, said the government has ignored all objections raised by parents’ groups while bringing in the amendment.

“It allows school management to arbitrarily propose 15% or even more fee hike under unforeseen circumstances by taking approval from not more than 76% of parents or PTA committee. This is a pro-management step. It is vague, with no definition of unforeseen circumstances,” she said, adding parents’ groups from across the state plan to vote for NOTA in the 2019 elections to protest the decision. “We are planning to challenge the order in the court.”

Parents are also not too happy with the provision that allows them to move the Divisional Fee Revision Committee (DFRC) only if 25% of them object to the fee hike.

“It is not easy to get such a big number,” said Prasad Tulaskar, a parent who is embroiled in a fee battle with a Dadar school.

Archana Shetty, a city-based parent, said, “The government is not investing enough in public schools, while private schools only focus on making money. Where should the parents go?”

(Inputs from Ankita Bhatkhande)

First Published: Nov 26, 2018 23:40 IST