Bulgaria’s Parliament approved an amendment to the School Education Act that will allow private kindergartens and schools to receive state subsidies. Unless MPs later amend the draft regulations accompanying the bill, now at second reading in Parliament, private establishments will be able to apply for a state subsidy starting with the 2016/17 school year.
Private kindergartens and schools receiving a state subsidy will be required to reduce their tuition fees by a commensurate amount, according to the provisions of the law. The measure is meant to ensure that all children can access state subsidies, although private kindergartens and schools will not be required to apply for state funding.
The provision was met with criticism from the opposition socialists, with MP Vanya Dobreva saying that it was “socially irresponsible” to hand subsidies to the private sector when public schools were underfunded.
Fellow socialist MP Ivelin Nikolov said that the provision would disadvantage rural areas where there are no private schools. His criticism was dismissed by Katya Chalukova, MP for ruling party GERB, who said that the charges were misleading and that funding for schools in rural areas was also available.
Centre-right opposition Blue Coalition backed the amendment, with former education minister Vesselin Metodiev saying that the provision was in line with the overall framework of the country’s education system, in which state subsidies are paid to schools based on the number of pupils they have (at the start of every year, the Education Minister calculates the amount for each pupil and then allocates funding based on the number of pupils that a school or kindergarten has).
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)