Sunday 18 February 2018

State's €100m funding for fee-paying schools 'must end'

Majella O'Sullivan

THE Teachers' Union of Ireland has called for an end to "privileged payments" to fee-paying schools.

A motion passed at the TUI's annual congress in Tralee last night has called for an end to the €100m in state supports paid to fee-paying schools each year.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has already indicated he is not in favour of ending the practice, which was described yesterday as a "shameful" support of private education for privilege.

"When you have a situation whereby you have extensive and very serious cuts to the education service this payment of €100m to private, fee-paying schools is not tolerable," TUI executive committee member Gerry Quinn told the Irish Independent.

"It's not justifiable and we represent the VEC (vocational education committee) sector which includes some of the most disadvantaged schools in the country and we should be looking to strengthen supports for these students.

"It's the injustice of having these cuts on the one hand and on the other hand the same Government is funding private education."

He added that the union was not calling for the end of private education and nor was it targeting minority faith schools which, he said, were deserving of support. However, he said private education should not be publicly financed.

Mr Quinn is also going to hear in person the TUI's threat that if there are further cuts in education the union will not honour the concessions it made in the Croke Park agreement, when he addresses the conference today.

Addressing congress for the first time, TUI president Bernie Ruane told the 420 delegates they were reluctant signatories to the agreement which held nothing attractive for its members but the alternative was even more unattractive.

"As trade unionists we may have taken a battering but we would warn the new Government that any future efforts to damage education and educators will be done at their peril," she said.

"The TUI is only in this deal for the protection it offers. If the Government reneges on its side of the bargain, all bets are off and we will not keep our side."

Pay cuts and pensions dominated discussions on the opening day of the conference.

Ms Ruane accused the Department of Finance of not having the money to spend on education because they had to pay for "Johnnie's pink palace, Seanie's little pads in Spain".

The union, which represents 15,000 teachers in the post-primary sector, also voted for immediate industrial action in the event of further cuts to their pay and conditions.

Irish Independent

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