Court says school meal referendum can go forward

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Court says school meal referendum can go forward

The Seoul Administrative Court rejected yesterday an injunction filed by opposition lawmakers against the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s Aug. 24 referendum that will decide the fate of the free school lunch program.

The injunction asked the court to stop the vote before considering a lawsuit against the city government to invalidate the referendum itself. The lawsuit claims that many of the signatures collected by the city government to place the referendum on the ballot had been forged.

“To approve the injunction, we have to consider if the plaintiff could win the upcoming lawsuit,” a statement from the court said yesterday. “But it seems they don’t have much possibility of winning the suit.”

The court added, “Even if there are problems with the citizens’ signatures, it is difficult to say all of signatures should be nullified,” the court said. “The signatures that plaintiff say were forged are difficult to say are fake.”

Democratic Party spokesman Lee Yong-sup in a statement yesterday said the party was “very sorry for the ruling of the court.”

“We can’t understand why the court made this ruling,” the statement said. “Offering free school meals is a matter of state budget, which is not dealt with by the Referendum Law. Furthermore, there were illegal and forged signatures.”

Although the suit will go ahead, officials said a ruling from the court would most likely take time, meaning that it was highly likely that the referendum will take place as scheduled.

Yet the DP spokesman in the statement said the party would push through with the lawsuit.

“Through the upcoming lawsuit, we will finally confirm Mayor Oh Se-hoon’s excessive efforts for holding the vote, because giving free school meals to all students is protecting their natural rights,” the statement said.

Oh, meanwhile, hailed the ruling in a statement yesterday.

“The court concluded that the referendum has been implemented according to legal procedures,” Oh said. “I wish opposition lawmakers would stop political attacks and cooperate with the referendum.”

The mayor also urged the National Assembly to pass a bill pending in the legislature that is designed to protect children from being stigmatized for receiving free school lunches.

To protect the identities of children receiving free school meals from their peers and teachers, the bill would allow parents to sign up for free meals by either on the Web sites of local community offices or applying at the local community offices in person.

Currently, families applying for free meals must submit documents proving their financial status to the children’s teachers.

Under the proposed system, the local community offices would be tasked with dealing with families’ financial information, instead of the schools. The information from the local community offices would then be handed over to the education offices.

But DP spokesman Lee Yong-sup said on Monday that even the proposed bill did not go far enough.

“The reason why the Democratic Party is supporting the universal free meal program is not just for protecting students from being stigmatized. It is that offering free school meals is part of our country’s mandatory education that’s in the Constitution,” Lee said.

By Kim Hee-jin []

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

주민투표 피켓 든 오세훈

“무상급식 아이들 낙인 방지법…민주당 의도적으로 처리 미뤄”

오세훈 서울시장이 15일 “입만 열면 (아이들이 ‘공짜밥’ 먹는다는 게 알려져 받을) ‘낙인감’(烙印感) 때문에 전면 무상급식을 하자는 정당이, ‘낙인감 방지법’ 처리는 의도적으로 미루고 있다”며 민주당을 강하게 비판했다. 서울 여의도 한나라당사를 찾아 기자회견을 자청해서다.

 ‘오세훈과 민주당’의 싸움에 ‘낙인 효과’(공짜밥 먹는 아이란 사실이 급우에게 알려져 자존심에 상처를 입는 효과)가 소재로 등장한 양상이다.

 정부는 기초생활보호 대상자나 한부모가정, 소년소녀가장 등이 직접 학교에 무상급식 신청서를 내는 과정에서 급우들에게 알려져 자존심에 상처를 입는 걸 원천 차단하기 위해 지난해 11월 급식비·학비·방과후 학교비·정보화지원비 등 4대 교육비를 학교가 아닌 동 주민센터에 신청하도록 하는 초중등교육법 개정안을 국회에 냈었다. <본지 2월 10일자 6면> 하지만 국회 교과위에서는 민주당이 국가와 지방자치단체가 초·중학교의 전면 무상급식 비용을 대도록 의무화하는 ‘학교급식법’ 개정을 주장하면서 법안 심사도 중단된 상태다.

 오 시장은 “학교에서 경제 수준이 노출될 가능성을 막는 개정안이 민주당 의원(변재일)이 위원장인 국회 교육과학기술위원회에서 9개월째 잠자고 있다”며 “민주당은 오히려 낙인감이 해소될까 두려워하는 것은 아닌지 묻지 않을 수 없다”고 했다.

 오 시장은 자신의 진퇴를 주민투표 결과에 연계시킬지에 대해선 “(서울시장) 보궐선거 패배 가능성 때문에 ‘너무 큰 모험 아니냐’고 만류하는 분위기를 이해할 수 있다”면서도 “아직 고민을 계속 하고 있는데, 혹시 결심이 서면 자리를 마련해 말할 수도 있을 것”이라고 밝혔다.

 이에 대해 민주당 이용섭 대변인은 “‘보편적 무상급식’ 안은 낙인효과 때문만이 아니라 헌법상 의무이기 때문”이라며 “‘낙인감 방지법’은 ‘유상급식’을 전제로 한 법안이라 논의할 가치가 없다”고 반박했다. 교과위 간사인 안민석 의원도 “(동 주민센터에) 급식 신청을 하게 하면 교육정보가 사회복지망에 연동돼 학생들의 정보 인권 문제도 있다”고 주장했다.
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