Parents associations in Maharashtra have demanded school management representatives be banned from the state’s Divisional Fee Regulation Committee (DFRC) – instituted to handle fee-related disputes between parents and schools. Currently the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2011, last amended in 2018, allows school management representatives to be a part of the DFRC board. The recommendation by the parents’ lobby is in response to the state education minister, Varsha Gaikwad’s decision to set up a committee to recommend improvements in the existing fee regulation act earlier this week.
The new committee comprising of government officials under the chairmanship of joint secretary (school education) will study the administrative level difficulties in implementing the rules under the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2011 and the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2016.
The state’s fee regulation act has been the bone of contention between parents and school managements. Parents’ groups have been pushing for amendments to the Regulation of Fee Act’ since being drafted in 2018 and its notification in August 2019. Parents now allege, schools collecting unjust fees during the COVD-19 pandemic ensuing lockdown period have been citing the pro-management provisions of the act to escape penalties.
In November 2018, based on recommendations of a government-appointed panel, the state’s Bhartiya Janta Party-led government amended the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2011. The act allowed educational managements to propose a hike in fees by 15 percent only once every two years. It also allowed parents the right to approach the DFRC to challenge fee hikes. However, parent bodies believe the amended act while supposedly bestowing power to school parents-teachers associations (PTAs), only did it on paper.
“While the act allows aggrieved parents to approach the DFRC regarding fee disputes, the option can be availed only if 25 percent of the total parents oppose the hike. In schools with a huge student population running into 4000-5000, gathering the support of over 1000 parents would be practically impossible and thus never implementable,” says Anubha Sahai, president, India-wide Parents’ Association.
Parent bodies want the government to allow individual parents to contest fee hikes and ban provisions allowing schools to charge an interest on delayed fee payments as part of the eight amendments they have recommended.
Parents also want the education department to take action against private schools who targeted students over unpaid fees during the lockdown period. The education minister has issued orders for the formation of divisional level fee regulatory committees to look into parents’ complaints regarding school fees.
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