Karnataka Education Minister S. Suresh Kumar said on Friday that parents can pay only 70 per cent of the tuition fees fixed by the private schools and the schools should not charge development fees or library fees this academic year. The decision comes after protests by parents' associations who have been opposing private schools sticking to their fee structure even during the pandemic year, where schools conducted only online classes and a section of parents have incurred financial losses.
The parents had even threatened to stage a massive protest on Saturday demanding the state government's intervention, while the private school managements had threatened to discontinue the online classes for students who failed to pay the fees.
The Minister told reporters that all the private schools, irrespective of which board they follow, will be allowed to charge only 70 per cent of the tuition fee collected last year for the current academic year.
"The schools cannot collect any other fee but the reduced tuition fee. However, we welcome any school that voluntarily reduces the fee further. In fact, many private schools had implemented for a 25 to 30 per cent reduction in fee," he said.
Kumar also said that the schools should make provision for payment of the tuition fee in three installments. "If any parent has already paid the full amount of the fees this year, the excess amount paid can be adjusted for the next academic year," he said.
According to him, the Education Department will set up the district and state-level committees to resolve any disputes over charging excess school fees.
He said that he has held several rounds of consultations with educationists, elected representatives from the Graduates and Teachers constituencies, private school managements and parents' associations before making the decision to reduce the fee.
The minister said that the government had to exercise its powers under the Right to Education (RTE) Act and also the Epidemic Diseases Management Act to fix the fee structure for this academic year.
"I was hoping the dispute over the fees would be resolved amicably between the parents and the school managements as many parents had stood in a queue all night to get admission into the schools and considered themselves lucky to have got through. But today, the relation between the two has soured," he noted.
He added that many parents have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and some of them have been getting half of their salaries. Hence, the school management committees must allow them to pay fees in installments.
"We have also realised that many schools have not been able to pay salaries to their teachers and have been facing financial losses since last year. In case of force or trouble from schools, then a separate committee has been formed by the government to look into these issues and take actions against such schools," he said.