Czech "special schools" taught healthy children as if they were disabled - for the subsidies
Libor Vacek, spokesperson for the Czech School Inspection Authority, told the Czech Press Agency today that 24 former "special schools" from around the Czech Republic have been educating healthy children in a program for children with light mental disability. Over a period of three years, the schools defrauded the state of CZK 7.5 million in higher per capita subsidies provided for special needs children.
Instead of publishing the names of the schools involved, inspectors have drawn the attention of the regional authorities to the schools concerned. Those authorities, which established the schools, can now decide on their own whether to forgive the fraud or to ask for repayment. Nonprofit organizations have long warned that the incorrect assignment of healthy children into the "special schools" concerns Roma pupils in particular.
A mainstream elementary school receives not quite CZK 41 000 per pupil, but if a child is disabled and educated according to a special needs program, that amount rises by at least 50 %. "The records showed 324 more pupils with light mental disability than actually are disabled. The total estimate of incorrectly received financing is CZK 7 475 389," reads the inspection authority's report.
Inspectors determined there were discrepancies in the accounting at the former "special schools" in the first half of this year and returned to the schools this fall to review their accounts from 2007-2009. "The schools have mostly put their books in order since our initial findings," Vacek said. Schools have either added recommendations on special needs education from their counseling centers to the pupils' files in order to document their educational needs or have removed children from the program for the lightly mentally disabled.
As far as Roma pupils are concerned, inspectors are said to have not determined how many of the children incorrectly assigned to special needs education were of that ethnicity. However, Vacek admitted there are usually plenty of young Roma attending these schools.
Critics from nonprofit organizations have long warned that children have frequently been assigned to "special" or "practical" schools not because they are mentally disabled, but because they are from socially excluded localities and therefore have underdeveloped social skills. This concerns Roma children in particular, 30 % of whom attend such schools while only 2 % of non-Roma children attend them.
In 2007 the European Court of Human Rights decided the Czech Republic had violated the right to education of 18 Roma individuals by unjustifiably assigning them to the "special schools". The Together to School association of domestic and international nonprofit organizations has therefore recently warned that if the Czech Republic doesn't hurry up and start addressing the discrimination of Roma in schools, it could face more lawsuits. The high number of Roma in "special schools" has also previously been criticized by Amnesty International.
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