Gyeonggi passes free school lunchA student-rights ordinance and a supplementary budget for free school lunches were passed by the Gyeonggi provincial council yesterday.
The two bills, the first of their kind in Korea, were submitted by the Gyeonggi provincial office of education and approved by the Democratic Party-dominated council. Councilors from the minority Grand National Party were absent from the session.
Gyeonggi education superintendent Kim Sang-gon won his position in May 2009 on a campaign pledge to expand free school meals to all school children. Control of the provincial council passed to the Democratic Party after elections in June.
Liberal opposition parties have been at war with the conservative Grand National party on the issues of free school lunches and student-rights legislation. Liberals believe free school lunches help poor families and are worth the expense. The GNP thinks giving free lunches to all students, regardless of their family’s wealth, is wasteful. On student rights, liberals believe students are oppressed in schools while the GNP believes in more discipline.
The student-rights ordinance stipulates that corporal punishment should be banned in schools; restrictions on hair length should be lifted; more freedom of style should be allowed; after-school supplementary classes should not be made mandatory; relaxed restrictions on the use of mobile phones; religious classes should not be compulsory; the superintendent of education should do his or her best to expand free school meals to all schools; and student human-rights committees should be established. The bill goes into effect in March.
The free lunch budget supplement is for 19.2 billion won ($16 million), which covers half the cost of lunches for 5th and 6th grade students in 22 cities and counties for this year. The rest is expected to be financed by city and county budgets. The bill will be implemented this month.
“Indiscriminate distribution of free school meals to all students regardless of their parents’ economic status is not right,” said Gyeonggi governor Kim Moon-soo, member of the GNP.
By Choe Mo-ran [firstname.lastname@example.org]