Friday 20 October 2017

FG quartet defend €100m state subsidy for fee-paying schools

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

FINE Gael TDs and ministers from some of the most middle-class constituencies in the country have come to the defence of fee-paying schools.

Labour Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, who is a former pupil of Blackrock College, is considering reducing the €100m given by the State to pay the wages of teachers in private schools.

But some TDs say it will not save any money in the long run, and will actually cost the State.

They also say it could lead to increased fees for parents who have made sacrifices to send their children to private schools.

European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton, her Dublin South-East constituency colleague Eoghan Murphy, Dublin South's Olivia Mitchell and Kildare North's Anthony Lawlor are among those defending the subsidy.

"The state subvention to schools is a matter of right, irrespective of whether it is a public or private school," Ms Creighton told the Irish Independent.

She added that parents who "work hard and choose to invest in their children's' education" shouldn't be punished.

Mr Lawlor said some parents are being "put to the pin of their collar to pay for a good education for their children".

Mr Quinn's department has carried out an audit of the payments to 55 private schools and he cut some of their funding in last year's Budget, which led to a slight increase in their pupil-teacher ratio.

All schools are entitled to money, based on class sizes, to pay teacher's wages but private schools do not get any money towards the day-to-day costs or for infrastructural development, as public schools do.

Mr Murphy said every child sent to a fee-paying school actually saves the State €3,500, and many parents make big sacrifices to pay school fees.

Increments

He said the money could instead be saved by cutting allowances and increments paid to teachers.

"The parents pay for the schools themselves and all the resources," Mr Murphy said. "By doing this they are taking this financial burden off the State -- they are saving all of us money.

"This saving is worth around €91m to the Government, and it is paid by individuals who have decided to spend additional money on their children's education.

"If we really want to save the State some money in education we could save €63m next year by not giving pay rises to all of our teachers," added Mr Murphy, who attended St Michael's College on Ailesbury Road in south Dublin, which costs €4,888 per year.

"We could save a further €50m by not paying teachers extra to watch pupils in the yard during the lunch break. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to discuss increments and allowances, even though neither payment is covered under the Croke Park Agreement."

Ms Mitchell said the cuts would mean taking away a parent's right to choose -- and pointed out that teachers' wages will have to be paid if they work in public or private schools.

"I don't see there is any huge savings to be made from this," Ms Mitchell said. "This comes up before every Budget but people eventually realise there is little to be saved."

Irish Independent

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