PARENT GROUPS may finally have a chance to file a complaint with the Fee Regulatory Committee (FRC) against any school fee hike that they feel
is exorbitant. An 11-member committee appointed to suggest modifications in the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Collection of Fee) Act, 2011, has recommended that a selected representative of parents can complain to the divisional office of the Fee Regulatory Committee (DFRC).
The committee, headed by retired Bombay High Court judge VG Palshikar, submitted its report to the state education department Wednesday making a host of recommendations, including more representation to parents. If a majority of parents from the Parents Teachers Association’s (PTA) executive committee in the school decides that the fee is unwarranted, they can approach the DFRC with a complaint, the committee has suggested. It also suggested doubling the number of parents in the PTA. Currently there is only one parent and one teacher from each class in the PTA. The committee has suggested two parents from each class.
“The Act in its present form is toothless, particularly for parents as there is no mechanism to register complaints. The committee was formed to suggest ways of making the Act more efficient. The government will go through the report and decide what parts we may accept,” said Education Minister Vinod Tawde.
Currently, aggrieved parents cannot appeal to anybody but the school management can in certain cases appeal before the DFRC. The Act says a private school management can propose a fee hike and seek the executive committee approval six months before start of the academic year. Only a 15 per cent hike in two years is allowed. If the difference between fees proposed by the management and approved by the executive committee is less than 15 per cent, the school management is bound to go ahead with the fees decided by the executive committee. If the difference exceeds 15 per cent, the school management can appeal with the DFRC for a review.
“The first clause is redundant and we have proposed to remove that. Even if the difference is less than 15 per cent, the school management can appeal with the DFRC,” said Mohan Awte, a member of the committee and additional Chief Executive Officer of SVKM group of institutions.
Awte said the committee has also made provisions for exceptional cases wherein a school can ask for a hike citing genuine reasons. “In such cases, the DFRC will hear both the school’s and the PTA’s side and take a decision. The DFRC may revise its own decision in such cases,” said Awte adding that the DFRC may also be granted powers to conduct suo motu hearings.
‘Increasing parents in PTA an eyewash’
Amid increasing complaints by parents over school fee hikes earlier this year, the committee was set up on May 6 to look at ways of empowering parents in the fee regulation process. However, parents’ associations are not very happy with the results. “On the face of it, it appears as if the representation of parents has increased in the PTA. But individual parents still don’t have any rights,” said Arundhati Chavan, head of the PTA United Forum of Maharashtra.
Jayant Jain, president of Forum for Fairness in Education, said, “Every parent should have the right to complain if he or she is not comfortable with the fees. The PTA can be blackmailed or threatened by the school management into agreeing to their demands.” He said the move to increase representation of parents in the PTA is an eyewash because the lottery method of selecting PTA members is flawed. “If the selection process is flawed, increasing the number of parents in the association will not make any great
difference,” said Jain.