For the past month, parents have been at loggerheads with schools over fee hike and while both the parties are furious over government inaction, they feel Maharashtra, as compared to other states, has the best rules in place. The implementation, however, is a matter of concern, said parents.
According to the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2011, a private school can propose a fee hike six months before the academic year and must seek nod from the Parents Teachers Association's (PTA) executive body before implementing it. Other states like Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat have either set a cap on fee hikes or appointed a HC judge-led committee to verify the fee hike.
Schools feel Maharashtra is more democratic. “The state cannot decide the fees for every school because the infrastructure provided and salaries paid are different. A cap on fee hikes of private schools will not stand in the court of law due to previous SC judgments,“ said SC Kedia, secretary of the Unaided Schools Forum. Rajasthan, like Maharashtra, gives the PTA 's executive body the right to approve the fee hike.
Protesting parents, howe ver, want the state to amend this. “The PTA is selected through a lottery and may not have the necessary knowledge. In such cases, schools could take advantage and take appro vals,“ said Anubha Sahai of India Wide Parents Association.
The parents also want the state to give them powers to approach the divisional fee regulatory committee (DFRC) with a fee dispute. Currently , only schools can do so. “The act is sound but there is no provision for parents to complain against schools and the DFRC should be allowed to put a stay on the fee hike until a dispute is resolved,“ said Sahai. In Delhi, the bill mandates a quorum of at least 20 parents or 15th of that of the total number of students in a class to file a complaint.
Taking a cue from Delhi and Tamil Nadu, activists in Maharashtra too want the state to conduct a financial audit of the school's accounts. “ A competent person must be on the panel to which a school must submit all financial documentation to ensure they are not making a profit by overcharging parents,“ said Jayant Jain, president, Forum for Fairness in Education, an NGO which is planning to move the Bombay HC against fee hikes. In Delhi and Tamil Nadu, schools have to submit audited financial returns along with proposed fee hikes to a committee led by a retired HC or district court judge.
School education minister Vinod Tawde did not respond to calls or messages while school education secretary Nandkumar was unavailable for comments. B B Chavan, deputy director of education, Mumbai, said changes were being considered for the act. “We have already had discussions on the parents' demands to make changes on how the PTA is constituted. Suggestions are being considered to change the voting patterns so that a fair vote can decide the hike,“ he said.