Except for improbable last minute changes, the Government renounces to lower the ratios of students per class in the new educational law that is being processed in Congress. This Wednesday the deadline for submitting party amendments ended to the bill of the Ministry of Education (the LOMLOE) and the joint modification proposals presented by the PSOE and UP (a total of 107) do not include a decrease in the number of students per classroom, which is probably the main historical requirement of teachers, reinforced by the need for social distance imposed by the pandemic. Currently, after the rise made by former Minister José Ignacio Wert in 2012, the maximum ratios allowed by law are 25 students per classroom in Primary, 30 in Secondary and 35 in Baccalaureate. All these figures are expandable by 10% in exceptional cases, although depending on where they do not need to be so exceptional to apply.
Goodbye to the LOMCE: the new education law reduces the weight of Religion and the concerted one, but does not prohibit segregation by sex
Among the amendments that the parties that make up the Government have presented, three stand out, explains Javier Sánchez Serna, UP Head of Education: the reinforcement of public education by placing it as the backbone of the system and with a commitment, in writing, to increase the offer of places in the public network every year; an increase in the supply of public places in Early Childhood Education (not compulsory); and eliminating concerts at centers that segregate their students by sex, a modification that Wert introduced and endorsed the Constitutional Court. Religion as a subject will once again not count towards the average and will not have a mirror subject (the alternative for those who do not take it), but it also seems to have fallen into oblivion, unless it is regulated by another way, the intention of the minister, Isabel Celaá, to remove her from school hours.
The amendments presented by PSOE and UP to what would appear to be their own bill must be understood because the text presented in Congress is entirely from the PSOE. To avoid having to pass the public hearing process, etc. mandatory in every bill, the ministry presented the same draft that Celaá had registered on the same day that the Cortes of the previous legislature were dissolved, and UP has wanted, party sources explain, to feel it as its own with some changes agreed with the PSOE.
The PP has also presented its own amendments to the law, reports Europa Press. There are 10 in total, among which are the creation of a system similar to the MIR of doctors for teachers or that 65% of the curriculum is common for all of Spain.
In the hands of the communities
Luz Martínez Seijo, spokesperson for Education of the PSOE in Congress, has justified in a press conference the resignation to lower the ratios because the law already sets maximum limits, but allows the governments of the autonomous communities, which have powers in Education, lower those stops. “We do not see the need,” he explained. A similar idea seems to have Minister Celáa, who evaded the question twice in an interview with this newspaper in April and limited himself to stating that an organic law is not necessary for that. The problem –if it is understood that the ratios do not drop as a problem– is that the autonomous communities do not seem very much for the work of reducing them and the Government has no mechanisms to force them.
It has been observed with the approach of this course with COVID-19. At the end of August, the Ministry agreed with the communities that the groups that had to have a 100% face-to-face education (up to 2nd year of ESO, in general) would have a maximum of 20 students whenever possible. But, with no law involved, this measure was recommended. The result is that the majority of the communities have not reduced their classes to these 20 students, according to teachers and families throughout the country in the absence of official data. And in some cases that have been offered, as in Andalusia, it has only served to confirm that they do not actually meet the recommendation of the 20 students per classroom. According to the Asturian Ministry of Education, only its community and the Valencian community are complying.
Sources from Podemos explain that the issue has been debated, but that “there has been no consensus among the government partners.” In the party they believed that the current cap could be adjusted more, these sources explain, but they also anticipated complications when fitting it into the budget debate (lower ratios means more teachers, which means more money) and finally they agreed not to fight in this countryside. From the party they explain that it was proposed to lower them at the beginning of the course by Royal Decree –the formula that Wert used to raise them–, but finally they opted for other ways and for a RD “there is always time.”
More public school
The main amendments presented, beyond some technical novelties, are in line with strengthening the public school, explains Sánchez Serna. “For the first time, the commitment to increase the places in publicly owned centers is included in an educational law,” the deputy values. A similar measure will apply, if the law goes ahead with these modifications, to nursery schools. “We wanted to put black on white that the offer of 0-3 (the first stage of Early Childhood Education) must be public, sufficient and affordable to close the way to these privatizing proposals from Ciudadanos and PP with the school check, which works for the concert regime, “explains Serna.
The amendments of both parties propose a series of changes regarding the concerted school and its relationship with the public, although without getting to the bottom of the question –that aspiration already forgotten years ago that IU and Podemos shared to end the concerted school-. Thus, PSOE and UP want to end “with that segregation by socioeconomic origin” that, says the deputy of United We Can, occurs “not in all, but in good part of the concerted”. That of the rich going to class with the rich and the poor with the poor. To this end, they propose that the educational administrations “shall ensure the balanced presence of students with a specific need for educational support or who are in a disadvantaged economic situation among the centers supported with public funds in their field of action”, according to the amendment presented.
This measure is complemented with a commitment to “local schooling”: preference for concerts will be given to those centers that prioritize families living in the neighborhood where they are located, to end this practice, Serna says, Freedom of choice for families of the type of education they want for their children had become the freedom of educational centers to choose their students, with measures such as the single district that Esperanza Aguirre established in the Community of Madrid.
The other major measure that is going to affect the concerted school is that it is intended to de facto prohibit by law concerts at centers that segregate their students by sex, a measure that the PP Government introduced in the LOMCE of Wert and that the PSOE took to the Constitutional Court to see how it validated it. This measure will not be used quantitatively very much, but the UP and the PSOE already anticipate that it will be one of the ones that have the most social response from certain sectors. UP sources point out, in fact, that there was some debate with the minister with this question, because the PSOE fears that having lost in the TC the right will go to this court to annul the measure. But from the purple party they point out that the fact that the TC endorses a practice does not mean that it prohibits the opposite. In any case, the formula chosen for the amendment will not be negative, but positive: “Both public centers and centers supported with public funds will develop the principle of coeducation in all educational stages and will not separate students by their sex” , it reads in the amendment.