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Maharashtra: Notices to schools refusing RTE admissions

June 30, 2021
-Dipta Joshi

Schools across Maharashtra have been sent notices for allegedly refusing to admit students under the Right of Children to Free & Compulsory Education (aka RTE) Act, 2009. Private unaided schools however have refused to admit students until the state government clears their pending RTE-related reimbursements. School managements claim the government owes  them Rs.677 crore arrears for the years 2018-19 and 2019-20 alone and another Rs 400 crore for the academic year 20-2021.

The RTE Act which guarantees economically weaker section (EWS) children aged 6-14 years free-of-charge admissions to classes 1-VIII in neighbourhood schools expects schools to keep aside 25 percent seats for RTE students.  This year, schools were supposed to complete RTE admissions by June 30 however school managements of  the mostly budget private schools (tuition fees up to Rs 10,000-20,000 per annum) facing the vicissitudes of the Covid-19 pandemic have refused to take on the additional financial burden of providing free education to new RTE students.  

“Since the pandemic, most schools are recovering only 50-70 percent of fees as parents refuse to pay school fees in the absence of regular school. The government too has not paid the RTE reimbursement that it owes us for years. With operational costs – staff salaries, insurance, transportation taxes etc. continuing and no sign of regular income, schools are barely able to operate with the current number of students. We cannot take the additional burden of admitting new students under RTE. If forced, we will have no option but to shut our schools,” says Rajendra Singh, president, Independent English Schools Association (IESA) which has more than 1000 schools as its members.    

The association sent a legal notice to the state’s education department on May 27 asking the state to clear all pending RTE dues as well. The notice also detailed school managements’ inability to admit new students in view of the financial difficulties in running schools for the academic year 2021-22. However, ignoring their pleas the state education department has continued with the RTE admissions process and sent notices to schools that refuse to admit students under RTE. Of the total 3464 EWS seats in 147 schools in Pune and adjoining Pimpri-Chinchwad, as many as 122 schools have received notices for refusing to admit RTE students. Schools across other districts in the state (Nashik, Jalna, Wardha, Nagpur, Dhule and Aurangabad etc.) have also received similar notices.

The Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation’s (PCMC) education department which has received up to 250 complaints against schools in its jurisdiction has set up two verification committees to look into the applicant’s documents submitted to the schools while ensuring parents that deserving students with an annual family income of less than Rs one lakh would be admitted. IESA meanwhile is ready to approach the Aurangabad division of the Bombay High Court against the government’s diktat.

The RTE Act stipulates the state mandatorily compensate financially independent schools per pupil costs for providing free of charge education by reimbursing them tuition fees equivalent to the per pupil cost incurred in government primary schools or actual fees of private schools, if lower. However, consecutive state governments in the state have delayed RTE reimbursements leading to disgruntled private unaided schools who continue to get burdened financially. In May this year, the state government further debilitated unaided private schools by announcing a 60 percent reduction in its obligatory per pupil RTE payout to schools. Slashing the per pupil reimbursement to Rs.8,000 from the liable Rs.17,670, the government expects to save Rs 240 crore of the Rs 400 crore annual pay out.

Also read: RTE reimbursements: Maharashtra budget private schools’ promoters to fast-unto-death

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