The All India Parents Association (AIPA) has written to the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers of the states proposing a central legislation for uniform fee regulation in private schools across the country. In a letter dated March 31, 2021, AIPA president, Ashok Agarwal, forwarded a draft bill prepared by his group in this regard. “Needless to say that there are lots of inconsistencies among the several state legislations on this issue, which have come during the last nine years and therefore there is urgent need to have a central legislation,” he wrote in his letter.
AIPA draft bill mainly carries a fee regulatory mechanism based on the concept fee committees set up by several states. As per the draft bill the committee headed by a retired High Court judge will vet fee hike proposals by the schools after ascertaining the need for it. The committee which will have director education on board as a memebr, will have powers to refund any excess fees. The apex state committee will be assisted by district committees, which will be empowered to inspect records of schools and cease them if needed.
“The committee while determining the fee leviable shall take into account factors like location of unaided private school, available infrastructure, reasonable surplus required for the growth and development of the school, expenditure and maintenance and other factors that can be prescribed,” says the draft. The draft bill also provides for minimum three-year imprisonment for contravention of the provisions of the Act while prohibiting all forms of donations.
The proposed bill also contains provision for 50% representation of parents in school management. The draft also retains the overarching powers of the ‘appropriate’ government to regulate fees in extraordinary circumstances and pandemics.
It may be mentioned that the issue of fee has been a bone of contention between school managements and parents for a long time as a lot of parents see schools commercializing education and extracting excessive fees from them. In 2020 lockdown and school closures, this issue became a full-blown street/court battle between schools and parents across the country. In some cases, states have even made laws but still a clear model central law is seen as the only solution to tide over the school fee issue in private schools.