Private school managements in Bengaluru and across Karnataka are up in arms over the unilateral, steep fee cut ordered by the state government on Friday. School associations are also considering approaching the courts over the matter, citing that the resulting fund crunch will mean that they will not be able to pay their staff fully.
Karnataka Primary and Secondary Education Minister S Suresh Kumar on Friday had said that schools cannot ask parents to pay more than 70% of the tuition fees for the academic year 2020-2021. Further, schools have been ordered not to take any other payments such as development fees from parents for the current year, above the tuition fee. An order to the same effect was passed on Saturday.
Even if parents have already paid such fees or tuition fees in excess of 70%, schools have been asked to refund the amount, or adjust it with the coming school yearâ€™s fees.
â€śWith respect to the 30% fee cut ordered by the state government, it will be actually around 50-60% of the fee that gets cut for schools who charge Rs 25,000 yearly for students. We do not know on what factors the government has decided this cut. This is because they have already curtailed development fees, term fees and special development fees; and the yearly increment has already been cut,â€ť Sashi Kumar, President of the Associated Management of Primary and Secondary School (KAMS) said.
He added, â€śFor most schools, entry-level admissions have not taken place for classes like LKG, UKG or first standard at all. All these deficits result in a cash crunch. Is it that the government wants private schools to pay only 50% of the salaries to the teachers and non-teaching staff? We may have to approach the courts, or the government has to come up with a solution rather than making this mess.â€ť
M Srinivasan, president of the CBSE Schools Association, claimed that the state government cannot enforce this order due to an ongoing litigation at the Karnataka High Court.
â€śWe are considering all options and exploring if we should go to the courts again. Already we had approached the HC, challenging the state governmentâ€™s amendment which has brought non-state board schools under the state governmentâ€™s ambit. In that case, the HC in an interim order had said that the state government cannot take any coercive action until the court settles the matter,â€ť he said.
He added, â€śWe have already lost more than 25-30% of our revenue, if you account for the 20-30% of parents who have anyway not paid the fees. Expense-wise, we have not saved money on anything other than transportation, for which most schools have voluntarily given part of the fees back to parents. How do we go and refund the money that parents have already paid, as we have spent it on salaries?â€ť
School managements said that instead of taking a unilateral decision, the government could have held discussions with both school managements and parents.
Srinivasan claimed that instead of this blanket fee cut, the government could have helped those parents who are struggling financially. â€śWe need to help parents who cannot afford to pay, and we have already been doing so. But for parents who are ready to support the school and can do it, why is the government stopping this?â€ť he asked.