Only half of the 10,467 private schools across Karnataka that received fee reimbursement for admissions under the Right to Education (RTE) Act quota were eligible for the maximum ceiling set by the State government for the academic year 2016–17.
Only 3,153 schools were awarded ₹5,924 per child admitted in pre-primary classes and 1,878 schools got ₹11,848 per child admitted in primary classes, which were the highest reimbursement in the respective categories. The ceiling for the coming academic year has been revised to ₹ 8,000 for pre-primary classes and ₹16,000 for primary.
In fact, officials in the Department of Primary and Secondary Education said the government spends ₹11,848 for each child studying in its own school. On the other hand, the average RTE reimbursement per child across the State stands at ₹6,871, which indicates that many private schools in the State are spending far less per child than the government. Ten districts had higher RTE reimbursements than the State average.
The districts with the most number of schools to get the maximum reimbursement per child were Bengaluru South and Bengaluru North. This shows that the recurring expenditure of at least half of the schools was less than the government ceiling, said Sowjanya, Commissioner for Public Instruction.
The State spent ₹241 crore in the 2016–17 academic year towards reimbursement to private schools. Of this, about 32% has gone to schools in Bengaluru Urban district alone. P.C. Jaffer, State Project Director, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, said the city received the highest total reimbursements and had the highest number of schools that received the maximum reimbursement. This, he said, was because of the availability of more seats in private schools in cities such as Bengaluru and also because the reach of government schools was not very high.
The fee of 3.5 lakh students studying in LKG to class five under the RTE quota was reimbursed by the government for 2016–17.
Within Bengaluru city, the average reimbursement was the higher in Bengaluru North, at ₹9,103 per child, although fewer students were admitted under the quota here. At the other end of the spectrum, Sirsi, Koppal and Bagalkot received lower reimbursements, with schools in Belagavi recording the least average reimbursement of ₹4,226.
Experts point out that the increase in demand for seats in private schools in the State capital is for obvious reasons. “In urban areas, the number of government schools is limited and private schools are mushrooming. Moreover, parents prefer private schools as they offer English-medium education,” said Mullahalli Suri, president of the Parents’ Association.
Experts such as V.P. Niranjan Aradhya, fellow at the Centre for Child and Law, National Law School of India University, believe that instead of reimbursing schools under the RTE, the State should be using the money to improve infrastructure and teaching facilities in government schools.
The State government, however, has been advocating the quota. It has in the past pointed out that there should not be a “mix-up” between the roles of a government as a policy maker, regulator and as a major service provider with its own schools. Under the RTE, parents from weaker sections and disadvantaged groups should have the opportunity to admit their children in private schools if they so wished.
Some schools allege discrepancies
Several private school managements have alleged discrepancies in the manner in which the Department of Primary and Secondary Education has calculated fee reimbursement for admissions under the RTE Act quota. For the first time, the reimbursements were done online this year.
Some schools have received reimbursements of a few hundred rupees, and department officials have also come across schools that have received no money at all.
Schools have alleged that while some block education officers had not accounted for expenditure under certain sub-heads, others had calculated expenditure for 10 months instead of 12.
Explaining the problem, a Belagavi district school management member said he received ₹2,300 as reimbursement per child.
“I have 12 teaching and four non-teaching staff. The local officer said he would only account for six teachers and two ayahs, without giving any explanation,” he said, and added that the officer had not considered rent as a recurring expenditure.
D. Shashi Kumar, general secretary, Associated Managements of Primary and Secondary Schools in Karnataka, said the department had promised to address this issue and asked school managements to file appeals so that the errors could be rectified.