Catholics Fear France Will Make Home-Schooling Illegal
From the desk of Tiberge on Wed, 2008-01-30 12:06
The fallout from Jacques Attali’s report continues to rain down. The report is a staggering array of 316 proposals to free up the French economy. One topic – education – has been the focus of much concern at the Catholic websites, since it is primarily Catholic parents who send their children to private schools. Generally speaking, there are two types of private schools – those that are “under government contract”, and those that are “hors contrat” (outside the contract). The latter are totally independent of government influence, and all expenses and instruction must be funded by the parents.
In Decision 6 of the Attali report the following is stated:
The requirement [carte scolaire] that children attend schools in their own neighborhood separates pupils living in difficult neighborhoods from those of the city centers. The requirement can be overcome by those with the means to obtain an exemption, or to pay for their child’s schooling in a private establishment. Therefore, as a first step, parents and children must be allowed total freedom of choice of school, once they have examined the public evaluations of the schools. In case there is an excessive demand for one school, transparent priorities, both geographical and social, will be established.
I can almost guarantee you that this means that when a French child and a minority child are competing for the same school, the minority child will win.
School vouchers will be attributed to each child to be used in all schools: this measure will allow a veritable freedom of choice, so that each one can take advantage of the public schools and approved private schools in his or her neighborhood.
Here is where the questions are raised. What exactly is an “approved” private school?
In practical terms, the State will grant parents a certain sum of money per pupil. Each parent will be entitled to use it in a public or private school of his choice. The approval of private schools will be very strict regarding the nature of the subject matter taught and the respect for the values of the French Republic.
The actual “choice” is suddenly reduced to public government schools or private government schools. Currently, there are private schools partially funded by the government that still have a measure of autonomy, but these will disappear, under Attali’s plan, and be replaced by private schools with no autonomy. The advantage for the parents is purely financial – they will not have to pay for their child’s education. But if they refuse the offer of the vouchers, what then?
Yves Daoudal has posted three articles on this new development in the aftermath of the Attali report.
The first article goes over the highlights of Decision 6, explained above.
In his second article he exclaims:
I was stunned that nobody realized from my article of Wednesday that Decision 6 of the Attali report condemned Catholic schools insofar as they teach Catholic values, and forbade schools hors contrat [totally independent of government control] and home-schooling. [...] Now Jeanne Smits confirms my interpretation in today’s issue of Présent [a Catholic newspaper]. She also remarks that this “veritable bomb” went unnoticed. Most importantly, she was in attendance the day the report was made public. The confirmation of my interpretation is therefore confirmed by the author of the report himself.
Jeanne Smits, who was at Mr. Attali’s press conference, wrote:
A veritable bomb went unnoticed, the Attali report proposes the establishment of ‘school vouchers’ – that is, a check or coupon for education. [...] Naively I asked the troublesome question: ‘Where does the experiment begin, and will parents who choose to send their children to independent schools be able to use the vouchers?’
Attali’s face constricted, his voice became toneless: ‘It will begin in the underprivileged suburbs. [...] As for schools not under government contract, certainly not. Only approved private schools are involved, those that strictly respect the official courses of study, and above all (pause...) laïcité!’
In his third post Yves Daoudal makes the following clarifications:
The parents receive these school vouchers for their child. It gives them the right (and the means) to send their child to a school of their choice, provided it’s a public school or a private school that scrupulously respects the same courses of study as the public school (what the report calls “republican values”, strict “laïcité”, promotion of the culture of death, etc...) […] It is possible (but not certain) that at first those parents who throw the vouchers into the trash and continue to pay for an independent school will be tolerated. […]
All of this concerns the current independent schools which are a tiny minority: it is therefore possible that they will be tolerated, in the hope that they will eventually just disappear or become so marginal that banning them would not be worth the trouble that might ensue when parents are forced to use the vouchers. However, once again, the underlying implication of Decision 6 is that parents will be forced to use the vouchers.
The initial reactions to Decision 6 were positive because it sounded as if parents were given money to freely choose a school. It still isn’t clear what would happen to parents who refused to use the vouchers, if indeed many refuse. The great fear of Catholic parents is that home-schooling, already very difficult to implement, will be made virtually illegal.