[EDITORIALS]Schools won’t be placatedPresident Roh Moo-hyun met with leaders of religious groups and reassured them that government ministries would respect the autonomy of private schools under the Private School Act. The president has in practice rejected demands from private schools to veto the bill. Therefore, the bill will go through a cabinet meeting Tuesday and be announced within the week. Considering the strong opposition from private schools and religious groups, however, the strife over the revision will be aggravated further.
It is rare for the president, ministers and governing party leaders to step forward all together to appease opposition to the passing of a law. The education minister and the Blue House senior secretary for education have told religious leaders that in exchange for adopting an open school board system, private schools affiliated with particular religions would be allowed to choose people of their respective religion as open board members. Does this mean that non-religious private schools, which comprise 75 percent of private schools, must accept open board members who oppose those schools’ philosophies? Their idea is bureaucratically convenient, but against the rule of law.
Private schools plan to take the revised law to Constitutional Court once it is announced. They think the new law contains provisions that may be unconstitutional: adopting an open school board system and a temporary school board system without a fixed term of office; limiting the school principal’s term in office to one four-year term and forbidding relatives of the chairman of the board from being appointed as principal. Even if the bill is implemented in July, private schools are expected to refuse to adopt an open board system. Most private high schools have started their application processes for university enrollment and the acceptance of new students, meaning that they will probably not refuse to accept new students as they had threatened earlier. However, should the strife continue, they may do so next year.
Some private school teachers and liberal religious groups are supporting the revision. The confrontation is no longer a mere political scuffle between governing and opposition parties. It has expanded into a conflict between private schools and religious groups.
To resolve the situation, we think a presidential decision is necessary. We urge both the governing and opposition parties to resume a debate on the bill at the National Assembly.