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Parliamentary Bulletin

29 October 1997

EDUCATION LAWS AMENDMENT BILL

The Education Laws Amendment Bill makes it possible for public schools to appoint additional teaching and non-teaching staff, over and above their approved limit, from funds raised by the schools themselves.

This enables previously-advantaged schools to maintain standards, while the focus of state funding is shifted towards redressing imbalances in historically-disadvantaged schools. This implements some of the policy goals of the South African Schools Act of 1996.

Balancing Equity and Standards

There is a fine balance between the goal of meeting the education needs of the historically-disadvantaged, and the goal of maintaining the standards of education previously enjoyed by a racial elite.

The Government has a clear commitment to equity and to redressing the educational injustices of the past, but is also committed to widening access to quality education. Yet these commitments have to be met from an education budget that has not increased.

The Government`s education policy has sought to manage this delicate balancing act by shifting the focus of state funding towards schools most in need of redress, while allowing parents at schools in middle-class areas the option to pay school fees to increase the private funding resources available to their schools. Under this Bill, school governing bodies will be allowed to use revenue collected from parents to employ additional teaching and non-teaching staff. These funds can be used to appoint staff additional to those already funded by the state.

Preventing A Two-Tier Schools System

There are checks and balances to ensure that individual governing bodies do not abuse their freedom to employ additional staff. Governing bodies will not be permitted to raise school fees to such an extent that they are able to afford considerably better resourced schools than the state can provide, because this would perpetuate the divisive, two-tier schooling system that we have inherited from the Apartheid past.

A Draft Policy on Funding Norms and Standards, which was released earlier this month, goes some way towards defining a single educational standard for all public schools.

Employment Standards

The Bill ensures that additional teachers who are employed by schools fall under the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC). This is to prevent the possible exploitation of teachers on the one hand, and to prevent wealthier public schools from offering higher salaries in order to poach the best staff from other public schools.

However, there have been concerns that many schools in poor areas would not be able to afford the standard conditions of service and could only employ additional teachers at lower salaries. The Bill therefore allows individual schools to negotiate for separate working conditions through the ELRC, or to apply for exemption from the Labour Relations Act through the ELRC.

According to the Bill, the following rules apply to the employment of additional staff:

  • they must comply with policy and laws applicable to other staff employed in public schools
  • their employment must be in terms of norms and standards determined by the Minister
  • teachers must be registered with the South African Council of Educators
  • their employment must be subject to section 195 of the Constitution
  • the criteria for employment must include consideration of equity, redress and representivity, as well as the ability of the candidate
  • governing bodies must supply parents with information on the costs of the proposed additional staff.

Redeployment of State-Funded Teachers

The redeployment of educator staff is critical in pursuing a policy of redress, since personnel expenditure accounts for almost 80 per cent of the education budget. The Bill deals with the tension between the rights of individual school governing bodies to employ a teacher of their own choice and the responsibilities of the state as employer to offer alternative employment to an employee affected by redeployment.

If the redeployment strategy is to go ahead, the state, as employer, must be empowered to shift teachers from those schools that have too many teachers, to those schools where there are posts to be filled. The Grove Primary School case highlighted a weakness in the existing legislation, and the need to define the rights and responsibilities of school governing bodies and the state in terms of the new parameters of the public education system as defined by the South African Schools Act.

According to the Bill, governing bodies in appointing state-funded teaching posts, will first have to take account of a list of applicants furnished by state. However, there is discretion for governing bodies to choose from within that list. The details will be negotiated through the Education Labour Relations Council.

It is essential that the Minister has the necessary powers to complete the rationalisation process. The Provincial Education Departments are unable to redeploy teachers until the legal situation is clarified. This is resulting in overspending at the rate of R47m per month.

Key Political Messages

  • The Education Laws Amendment Bill is a critical measure for implementing our policy of equity and redress of education provision
  • The Bill balances the rights of individual governing bodies to employ staff and the responsibilities of the state to implement policy
  • The Bill balances the need to redress the imbalances of the past, with the need to maintain and promote the highest standard of education
  • This Bill puts the teacher redeployment strategy back on track, which will benefit schools currently suffering from shortages of teaching staff.

     
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