The Karnataka state cabinet, on Wednesday, cleared a proposal to amend the RTE rules by which RTE seats under private schools will be filled only after seats in neighbourhood government and aided schools have been filled up, a model followed by the neighbouring state of Kerala.
Under section 12 (1) (c) of RTE, private schools, other than linguistic and religious minority, are mandated to reserve 25 per cent of its seats in Class 1 for children from households earning less than Rs 3.5 lakh per year. Admissions are based on an online lottery system conducted in May every year and state government reimburses the tuition fees of students thus admitted to the extent of the average expense incurred per student in its own schools, which adds up to Rs 8,000-16,000 in the state.
For the poor, whose only other alternative are the nearly dysfunctional government schools defined by English aversion, crumbling infrastructure and multi-grade classrooms, RTE seats have been a redeemer. Such has been the demand that the department received 2,28,000 applications for 1,58,000 seats under the quota for academic year 2017-18.
Karnataka governments—Congress in the past and the JDS-led coalition now—have been trying to amend the section as they have realised that RTE reimbursements are a burden on the exchequer. The state government’s annual reimbursement bills was Rs 22 crore in 2012-’13 for 49,282 children and rose to Rs 226 crore for 4.14 lakh children in 2016-’17, taking the state government’s aggregate payouts to Rs 685 crore during the past five years. Additionally, the department also believes that the provision of reservation under RTE in private schools is also responsible for the falling enrolment in its own schools resulting in mass closure. (Over 28,000 government schools have been proposed to merge with 8,000 schools owing poor enrolment.)
With accessibility to primary education in Karnataka at 98 per cent, and majority of seats unfilled in the neighbourhood 43,712 elementaries, this change in RTE rules virtually would mean that students do not get a chance to vie for a seat in private schools.Posted in States