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Czech President says he vetoed education amendment because of inclusion

5.5.2016 8:53
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Czech President Miloš Zeman has vetoed an amendment to the Schools Act that would introduce mandatory school-leaving examinations in mathematics and places in preschools for two-year-old children. Jiří Ovčáček, spokesperson for the Office of the President, communicated the news to the Czech News Agency yesterday.

The President's decision was made on the basis of a letter from the Union of Cities and Municipalities recommending he veto the amendment. The lower house has the power to override his veto.

Zeman was bothered by the introduction of an entitlement for two-year-olds to attend nursery schools and the delineation of school district catchment areas for nursery schools, which he believes will burden local authorities. He is also said to have returned the law to the legislature because of the issue of inclusion.

The amendment just vetoed, however, does not concern inclusive education - that was addressed by a previous amendment which the President did sign last year. The reasons given by the President for using his veto were published by him in a letter sent to the chair of the Chamber of Deputies, Jan Hamáček (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD).

In the letter, Zeman recommends the lower house not approve the law and facilitate its revision. He states that the position of the Union of Cities and Municipalities is the reason.

Two arguments are made by the letter. The first regards establishing the obligation to delineate, as of the beginning of next year, school districts and the catchment areas for nursery schools.

Zeman says he believes that measure would negatively impact cities with greater numbers of nursery schools for financial and organizational/administrative reasons, and that it would negatively impact municipalities "where the establishment of a school district (on the territory of some municipalities) is authoritatively done by a decision of the Regional Authority, which is a problem for the municipalities ringing Brno, Prague, Libereec and individual cases of cities and municipalities throughout the entire republic. Municipalities that have built up the capacity of nursery schools to provide for the needs of their residents will be afflicted, because they will have to expand that capacity to benefit surrounding municipalities that will be artificially affiliated with their school catchment area," the President wrote.

He is also bothered by the fact that the law does not require any financial participation by such surrounding municipalities in expanding nursery school capacity. Czech Education Minister Kateřina Valachová (ČSSD) responded to the veto by saying there is no reason to reject guaranteeing nursery school places.

"Many municipalities, in the past, have absolutely given up attempting to provide any such places for children. This veto, once again, will not aid parents with coordinating their family and professional lives," she said.

The minister reminded the press that municipalities can be aided with providing a sufficient number of places through domestic and EU subsidies designed for the expansion of the capacity of both nursery schools and primary schools. "We are coordinating those programs for the first time and we are announcing new ones (which have been missing to date) for next year," she said.

The President's second reason for vetoing the bill is a change that would make it possible for parents to enroll two-year-olds into nursery schools as of September 2020. Zeman is bothered by the fact that this measure would be expensive for nursery school establishers.

He justified his veto by saying that the state would not learn how many children might enroll into preschool until May 2020 and would not have enough time to adapt the capacity of the schools. Currently children are usually enrolled into nursery school at the age of three.

The right to enroll two-year-olds into preschool is supposed to make it possible for mothers to return to employment earlier. According to the draft law, nannies would be looking after the youngest children in such facilities.

The President also mentioned "so-called inclusion" in his reasoning, even though the bill he has vetoed does not address it. The amendment introducing inclusive education was already signed by the President last year.

"This law introduces, within a brief period of time, yet another amendment to the Schools Act, and the previous amendment added the principle of so-called inclusion to the legislation. I must share with you that the councils of all Regional Authorities have expressed a negative stance on so-called inclusion, as they consider its introduction to be premature, and that is another reason I am returning this bill to the Chamber of Deputies," the President wrote.

When voting on the President's veto is not possible for the lower house to alter the proposed legislation in any way. It can either be approved in its current form now, or removed from consideration, which would mean starting all over again.

In order to override the President's veto, 101 votes are needed. The Chamber of Deputies should receive the returned amendment for discussion during its session beginning at the end of May.

The vetoed amendment also presumed the introduction of mandatory school leaving examinations in mathematics in five years' time. The entrace examinations for secondary schools were to have been unified as of next year because of this impending change.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Inkluzivní vzdělávání, Miloš Zeman, školství, Vzdělávání



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