Religious Liberty and Education: A Case Study of Yeshivas vs. New York – How should the state regulate private and religious schooling?

In 2020, Jason Bedrick, Jay Greene and Matt Lee coedited a book entitled Religious Liberty and Education: A Case Study of Yeshivas vs. New York, published by Rowman & Littlefield. The editors are three esteemed experts in the field of education policy: Jason Bedrick was, at the time, director of policy for EdChoice and an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute, Jay Greene is Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, and Matt Lee is Distinguished Doctoral Fellow and Senior Research Assistant in the Department of Education Reform, also at the University of Arkansas.

The book looks at public policy on education in America and explores the crucial regulatory role of the state in supervising religious education. In particular, it provides a close examination of the Yeshiva controversy, instance where the state arguably exceeded the boundaries of its regulatory role, to the detriment of parents’ right to choose a school according to their beliefs. The term “Yeshiva” designates Orthodox Jewish private schools, run by Hasidic Jewish sects.

Yeshivas were subject to criticism from a group of activists called Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED). YAFFED accused these schools of not providing an adequate secular education. Subsequently to these allegations, the New York State Education Department enforced stricter requirements that private schools must satisfy to comply with New York’s education law. The implementation of the new guidelines, which are much more difficult to meet in practice, generated a public outcry because this may effectively hinder religious liberty and education.

The Yeshiva controversy reveals the inherent tensions that underpin the relationship between religion and education. Furthermore, it stresses the importance of striking a balance between on the one hand, upholding the right of the parents to choose an education for their children in line with their religious belief and, on the other hand, preserving the right of children to receive an adequate education guaranteed by the state.

The purpose of Religious Liberty and Education: A Case Study of Yeshivas vs. New York is rightly to find an intersection between right to education and religious free exercise. To that end, the book takes into consideration diverse religious perspectives and expert analysis from a broad range of professional backgrounds. In an editorial review, Yuval Levin (editor of National Affairs) insisted that finding such intersection is determinant for the future of our free societies. Hence, Religious Liberty and Education: A Case Study of Yeshivas vs. New York addresses a key societal issue and may be worth the read.

Chloé Vermenouze

If you want to know more, you can buy the book in the following link:

Religious Liberty and Education: A Case Study of Yeshivas vs. New York – le rôle de l’état dans la régulation des écoles privées religieuses

Religious Liberty and Education: A Case Study of Yeshivas vs. New York est un ouvrage publié en 2020 par Rowman & Littlefield Publishers et co-édité par Jason Bedrick, Jay Greene et Matt Lee. Les éditeurs sont tous les trois experts dans le domaine de la politique éducative. En effet, Jason Bedrick, était au moment de la parution du livre, directeur stratégique de EdChoice et chercheur adjoint au Cato Institute. Jay Greene, quant à lui, est professeur émérite et président du département de la réforme éducative à l’Université d’Arkansas. Matt Lee est impliqué dans ce même département, en sa qualité de docteur émérite et adjoint principal à la recherche.

L’ouvrage examine les politiques éducatives américaines et s’intéresse au rôle déterminant joué par l’État dans la réglementation des écoles privées religieuses. En particulier, il traite de la polémique de Yeshiva (en anglais, « Yeshiva controversy »), instance où l’État de New York s’est vu reprocher d’avoir outrepassé les limites de son rôle de réglementation, au détriment du droit des parents de choisir une école conforme à leurs croyances.

Le terme « Yeshiva » désigne les écoles privées orthodoxes juives, gérées par des juifs hassidiques. Ces écoles ont fait l’objet de critiques émanant d’un groupe d’activistes appelés les Jeunes Défenseurs pour une Éducation Juste ou « Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED) ». YAFFED reproche aux écoles privées orthodoxes juives de ne pas offrir une éducation laïque adaptée. Suite à ces allégations, le département de l’éducation de l’État de New York a imposé des critères plus stricts que les écoles privées sont tenues de satisfaire pour se conformer à la loi sur l’éducation de l’État de New York. La mise en place de ces nouvelles directives, beaucoup plus difficiles à suivre en pratique, pourrait entraver la liberté religieuse. De fait, cela a généré une indignation générale.

La « polémique de Yeshiva » met en lumière les tensions inhérentes à la relation entre religion et éducation. De plus, cette polémique révèle l’importance de trouver un équilibre entre d’une part, maintenir le droit des parents de choisir une école pour leurs enfants conformément à leurs croyances religieuses et, d’autre part, préserver le droit de chaque enfant de recevoir une éducation suffisante garantie par l’état.

L’objectif de Religious Liberty and Education: A Case Study of Yeshivas vs. New York est justement de trouver un point de rencontre entre le droit à l’éducation et la liberté religieuse. Dans cette perspective, l’ouvrage prend en compte diverses perspectives religieuses et des analyses d’experts issus de différents secteurs professionnels. Dans une revue, Yuval Levin (éditeur de National Affairs) a insisté sur le fait que trouver ce point de rencontre est capital pour le futur de nos sociétés libres. Ainsi, Religious Liberty and Education: A Case Study of Yeshivas vs. New York répond à un problème de société déterminant et mérite d’être lu.

Chloé Vermenouze

Le livre peut être acheté via le lien suivant :

La Corte Suprema de EEUU publica sentencia histórica sobre la libertad de enseñanza en el caso Carson contra Makin

El 21 de junio de 2022, el Tribunal Supremo de EE.UU. dio un paso más hacia el reconocimiento pleno la libertad de enseñanza. El juez Robert C. J., que redactó la sentencia, se basó en dos decisiones anteriores de la Corte Supremo de EE.UU. a favor de la elección educativa: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. vs Comer y Espinoza vs el Departamento de Hacienda de Montana.

El caso se planteó en el estado de Maine, donde se llevó a cabo un programa destinado a ayudar a los padres que no podían pagar la matrícula de sus hijos. En 1981, el Estado de Maine añadió un nuevo requisito para que las escuelas formaran parte de este programa, excluyendo de facto a las escuelas confesionales. En la práctica, esto significó que las familias que querían enviar a sus hijos a dichas escuelas, no tenían acceso a la financiación pública de las matrículas, lo que mermó considerablemente la posibilidad de estos padres de elegir una escuela acorde con sus valores y creencias.

Posteriormente, familias interpusieron una demanda contra el Comisionado del Departamento Principal de Educación del Estado de Maine, alegando que el requisito de “no confesionalidad” violaba la Constitución de los Estados Unidos. Tanto el Tribunal de Distrito como el Tribunal de Apelación fallaron a favor del Comisario, haciendo especial hincapié en la separación de la Iglesia y el Estado. Pero el Tribunal Supremo revocó las sentencias de los tribunales inferiores e invalidó el requisito de “no confesionalidad”, declarando que violaba la Primera Enmienda de la Constitución estadounidense relativa a la libertad religiosa. Se entendió que dicha cláusula podía poner trabajar al libre ejercicio de la libertad religiosa al ponerse impedimentos a ciertas familias al momento de escoger una escuela privada confesional.

En efecto, la sentencia de Carson facilita a todos los padres, independientemente de sus ingresos, elegir la educación de sus hijos. Con esta sentencia esta libertad en Estados Unidos es menos dependiente de las rentas de las familias. El programa de ayuda a la matrícula está ahora a disposición de los padres con bajos ingresos que deseen enviar a sus hijos a escuelas religiosas privadas.

Leslie Hiner, Vicepresidenta de Asuntos Jurídicos de EdChoice (organización nacional sin ánimo de lucro que promueve la libertad de enseñanza), destacó la importancia de Carson al afirmar que esta sentencia «acabará por fin con una larga y torturada historia de acciones antiinmigrantes y antirreligiosas que han impedido a los padres elegir una escuela para sus hijos».

Dado la repercusión de la Corte Suprema de EE.UU., esta decisión tiene un impacto, al menos cultural, más allá de las fronteras estadounidenses, por lo que a nivel global el eco de esta sentencia nos acerca hacia un reconocimiento pleno del pluralismo educativo a nivel mundial.  

Chloé Vermenouze

Freedom of education brilliantly upheld by the US Supreme Court in Carson v Makin

In June 21, 2022 the US Supreme Court took a step further towards achieving freedom of education. Robert C J, giving judgment for the majority built upon two earlier decisions of the US Supreme Court in favor of educational choice: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer and Espinoza v Montana Department of Revenue.

The case arose in the state of Maine, where a program designed to assist parents in paying tuition fees was enacted. In 1981, Maine added a new requirement for schools to be part of this program: sectarian schools were then excluded from the program. In practice, this meant that families wanting to send their children to faith-based schools, were prevented from using public tuition funding. This significantly hindered the parents’ ability to choose a school for their children, according to their values and beliefs.

Families subsequently brought a case against the commissioner of the Main Department of Education, alleging that the non-sectarian requirement violated the American Constitution. The District Court as well as the Court of Appeal held in favor of the commissioner, focusing mainly on the separation of church and state. But the Supreme Court overturned the decisions of the lower courts and invalidated the non-sectarian requirement, declaring that it violated the First Amendment of the American Constitution, particularly the Free Exercise clause. Attention was shifted to the parents’ freedom to send their children to a private faith-based school.

In effect, the ruling in Carson enables all parents, regardless of their income, to choose their children’ education. Educational choice is no longer a right enjoyed exclusively by privileged families who can afford tuition fees. The tuition assistance program is now available to parents with low incomes, wanting to send their children to private religious schools. Incidentally, this decision guards against religious discrimination.

The importance of Carson was captured by Leslie Hiner, Vice President of Legal Affairs at EdChoice (national non-profit organization encouraging state-based education choice programs), affirming this ruling “will finally put an end to a long, tortured history of anti-immigrant, anti- religious action that has hindered private school choice.” Given the reach of the US Supreme Court, this decision may resonate worldwide, towards a wider recognition of freedom of education as an essential human right.

Chloé Vermenouze

La liberté d’éducation fermement défendue par la Cour Suprême américaine dans Carson v Makin

Le 21 juin 2022, la Cour Suprême américaine a fait un pas supplémentaire vers la réalisation de la liberté d’éducation. John G. Roberts, rendant le jugement majoritaire, s’est appuyé sur deux décisions antérieures de la Cour Suprême favorable au choix à l’éducation : Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer et Espinoza v Montana Department of Revenue.

L’affaire est survenue dans l’État du Maine, dans lequel a été mis en place un programme d’aide aux parents n’ayant pas les moyens financiers de payer les frais de scolarité de leurs enfants. En 1981, l’État du Maine a ajouté un nouveau critère que les écoles doivent remplir pour faire partie du programme, ayant pour effet d’exclure les écoles religieuses ou sectaires. Les familles désireuses d’envoyer leurs enfants dans des écoles privées confessionels ne pouvaient de fait plus bénéficier du programme. Ainsi, la capacité des
parents à choisir une école pour leurs enfants conformément à leurs valeurs et leurs convictions religieuses a été considérable entravée.

Deux familles ont récemment porté plainte contre le Commissaire du Département de l’Éducation de l’État du Maine, en soutenant que la condition de « non-sectarisme » violait la Constitution américaine. Le tribunal de District et la Cour d’Appel ont statué en faveur du Commissionnaire, en insistant particulièrement sur la séparation entre l’église et l’État. Mais la Cour Suprême a cassé le jugement de la Cour d’Appel et a invalidé la condition de « non-sectarisme ». La Cour Suprême a déclaré que ce critère violait le Premier Amendement de la Constitution américaine et a mis l’accent sur la liberté des parents de scolariser leurs enfants dans une école privée religieuse.

Le jugement de la Cour Suprême permet aux parents, quel que soit leur revenu, de choisir l’éducation de leur enfant. Le choix à l’éducation n’est plus un droit réservé exclusivement aux familles privilégiées en mesure de payer des frais de scolarité. Le programme de remboursement des frais de scolarité est désormais mis à la disposition des parents à faibles revenus, désireux de scolariser leurs enfants dans des écoles privées religieuses. Par incidence, cette décision de justice empêche toute discrimination religieuse.

Leslie Hiner, Vice-Présidente des affaires légales à EdChoice (organisation à but non lucratif promouvant la liberté d’éducation) a mis en lumière l’importance de Carson,
affirmant que le jugement « va enfin mettre fin à une longue et torturée histoire d’action anti-immigration et anti-religieuse ayant empêché des parents de choisir une école privée pour leurs enfants ». Compte tenu de l’influence de la Cour Suprême américaine, ce mouvement en faveur du droit à l’éducation pourrait s’étendre au-delà des frontières américaines, vers une plus large reconnaissance de ce droit de l’Homme.

Chloé Vermenouze

Experiencia ciudadana en Colombia por el Pluralismo Educativo

Con motivo de las elecciones parlamentarias en Colombia, un grupo de ciudadanos, a título personal y como representantes de distintas organizaciones sociales, lideró una iniciativa para poner el Pluralismo Educativo -la Libertad de Educar en Colombia- como uno de los temas claves en la opinión pública y generar consensos sobre su alto valor en una democracia.

Por esta razón, un Comité de líderes, de los cuales algunos hacen parte de OIDEL, preparó un documento que permitiera a los candidatos de los diversos partidos políticos, que así lo desearan, manifestar su apoyo a esta libertad fundamental y que esta se constituyera en uno de los factores para ilustrar al votante para tomar su decisión en las urnas. Fue en el país una primera experiencia de este tipo, circunscrita específicamente al pluralismo educativo, la cual deja valiosos aprendizajes y constituye un precedente interesante que se seguirá robusteciendo en posteriores elecciones y contribuirá en diversos espacios de deliberación cívica y política.

Así nació el texto del “Compromiso por el pleno desarrollo del Derecho a la Educación, la Libertad para Educar, la Autonomía Escolar y el Pluralismo Educativo en Colombia”, que fue firmado por varios candidatos de diferentes partidos y movimientos políticos. Un documento de una sola página que, además de fundamentarse en la Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos, y el Pacto Internacional de Derechos Civiles y Políticos, busca comprometer a los Senadores y Representantes a la Cámara, para defender, potenciar y desarrollar legalmente la Constitución Política de Colombia -acorde a las más exitosas experiencias internacionales- para que todos los padres de familia gocen efectivamente del derecho a “escoger el tipo de educación para sus hijos menores” y el Estado garantice en la práctica “las libertades de enseñanza, aprendizaje, investigación y cátedra”, definidas en la Carta Magna de este país latinoamericano y enunciadas en su legislación nacional.

Como algunos recordarán, el tema del derecho de los padres a educar a sus hijos se hizo mucho más visible en Colombia desde el año 2016, cuando unas directrices de la Ministra de Educación del Gobierno de ese entonces afectaba directamente la libertad de las familias y la autonomía escolar de las instituciones educativas. Disposiciones gubernamentales que ocasionaron como respuesta unas exitosas y masivas marchas ciudadanas sin precedentes, que causaron el freno de esas iniciativas estatales, así como la posterior renuncia de la Ministra. Por lo tanto, en Colombia se declaró el 10 de Agosto como el Día Nacional de la Libertad para Educar y se conmemora cada año con múltiples iniciativas ciudadanas.

La Red Familia Colombia, el Comité 10A, el Movimiento Nacional por la Familia, el Foro Nacional de la Familia y la Red Un Paso al Frente continuarán generando reflexión en Colombia e impulsando el objetivo de lograr la garantía plena del derecho a la educación y la libertad para educar en Colombia.

Álvaro José Cifuentes

Historic step forward in the realization of freedom of education in the US Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court of the United States has just proclaimed the support of the important principle of freedom of education. In the state of Montana parents will now be able to use public funds to freely choose an education in accordance with their values and their religious views.

The  Montana State Legislature –formed by the Montana State and the Montana House of representatives- approved a tax-credit program in 2015, with the objective to enable parents to choose the education of their choice despite their income.

The program helped parents of modest means do what more affluent parents can do: send their children to a school of their choice”, including religious inspired schools.  (Justice Alito, p.13)

However, the Montana’s Department of Revenue banned this proposed program arguing that it would infringe Montana’s Constitution, which restricts governments use of taxpayer money to fund activities carried out by religious groups. According to this prohibition, called the Blain Amendment, the government cannot use tax-payers money “ to aid any church, school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution, controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect or denomination”.

The Amendment discriminated them choosing a faith-based school and restricted their freedom of choice. Three mothers of children of the school Stillwater Christian School raised their voices against this discrimination and sued the Montana’s Department of Revenue in the State Court for not being able to use the scholarship funds to pay the tuition of their children.

Last Monday, 30 of June 2020, Supreme Court Justice Roberts proclaimed in his final decision on this case, that “the prohibition burdens not only religious schools but also the families whose children attend them “(p.19). He brought to our memories the “enduring American tradition” to support the rights of the parents to raise their children in a religious atmosphere. The US Constitution itself protects the freedom of choice of parents of sending their children to a faith-based schools.

In the precedent judicial instance, at the Montana’s Supreme Courts, the counterpart argued that shutting down the support for religious schools by saying that this reflects the “state interest in preserving funding for public schools” (Brieg for respondents 7). However, according to Justice Alito, the parents affected by this banner are among those who support through taxes the public schools system. So, it is more than just to give them an effective alternative to Public Schools.

The substance of the matter under discussion according to Dissenting Justice Sonia Sotomayor is not about the separation of church and state, but about the realisation of freedom of choice of education. The banning of this aid in Montana’s Constitution “imposed”, in words of Chief Justice Roberts, “a heavy burden on people on faith and their ability to educate their children in that faith”. Therefore, he declared the provision as unconstitutional, violating the First Amendment, in specific the Free Exercise Clause.

This judicial sentence of the Supreme Court is a landmark to guarantee the right of education. It fulfils the positive obligation the state has to promote plurality and freedom of choice for the full realization of the right to education.

María Teresa Gerns

Histórico paso adelante por la libertad de enseñanza en la Corte Suprema de Estados Unidos:

La Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos acaba de proclamar su apoyo acerca del importante principio de libertad de educación. A partir de ahora en el Estado de Montana los padres podrán usar fondos públicos para escoger libremente la educación de acuerdo con sus valores y opiniones religiosas.

En 2015 el poder legislativo del Estado de Montana aprobó un programa de créditos fiscales con el objetivo de posibilitar a los padres que escojan la educación de su elección a pesar de sus creencias. Este programa estaba especialmente enfocado a familias de bajos recursos.

“El programa ayudaba a padres de recursos modestos a hacer lo que padres con más recursos podían hacer: mandar a sus hijos a un colegio de su elección”, incluidos las escuelas basadas en la fe (Justice Alito).

Sin embargo, el Departamento de hacienda de Montana prohibió este programa, argumentando que infringía la Constitución de Montana, la cual impide al gobierno prestar ayuda a grupos religiosos. Según esta prohibición, conocida como Blain Amendment, el gobierno no puede usar fondos públicos para “ayudar a cualquier iglesia, escuela, academia, semanario, facultad, universidad u otra institución literaria o científica, que está controlada total o parcialmente por cualquier iglesia, secta o denominación”.

La enmienda discriminaba a las familias que escogían escuelas de inspiración religiosa, al no poder estas acceder a financiación pública. Tres madres de niños del colegio Stillwater Christian School alzaron sus voces en contra de esta discriminación y demandaron al estado de Montana por impedirles el acceso a los fondos públicos para poder escoger la educación de sus hijos con independencia de su poder adquisitivo.

El lunes pasado, el 30 de junio de 2020, el juez Roberts ha proclamado en la decisión final de la sentencia, que “la prohibición no solo impone una carga a los colegios religiosos, sino también a las familias, cuyos hijos atienden dichas escuelas”. Nos lleva a la memoria “la perdurable tradición americana” de asegurar el derecho de los padres de educar los hijos en un ambiente religioso. La misma Constitución americana protege la libertad de elección que los padres pueden ejercer mandando a sus hijos a colegios religiosos.

En la anterior instancia judicial, en la Corte Suprema de Montana, la contraparte arguyó que el cierre de este programa de ayudas a escuelas religiosas se justificaba debido a la prioridad de preservar esta financiación para la escuela pública (Brieg for respondents 7). No obstante, según el juez de la Corte Suprema Alito, los padres que se han visto afectados por la delimitación son los mismos que contribuyen al mantenimiento de las escuelas públicas a través del pago de impuestos. Por ello, es más que justo darles una alternativa a los Colegios públicos.

El fondo de la cuestión según la opinión discrepante de la juez Sonia Sotomayor no es sobre la separación iglesia y estado, sino sobre la realización de la libertad de elección educativa. La restricción de la ayuda escolar por la Constitución de Montana “impone”, en palabras del juez presidente Roberts, “una pesada carga sobre personas de fe y sobre su capacidad de educar a sus hijos en aquella fe”. Por lo tanto, declaró la provisión como inconstitucional, por violar la Primera Enmienda de la constitución, y en concreto la cláusula sobre la Cláusula de la Libre Expresión.

Esta sentencia judicial de la Corte Suprema es un hito importante para garantizar el derecho de educación. Con ella se cumple le obligación positiva que tiene el Estado de promover la pluralidad y la libertad de elección para el pleno ejercicio del derecho de educación.

María Teresa Gerns

A sentence of the Spanish Constitutional court recognizes that public funding of compulsory education in non-governmental schools with legitimate pedagogical options, is a constitutional duty to guarantee the freedom of approach of the right to education :

On April 10th of last year, the Spanish Constitutional Court of Spain in its judgment 31/2018 resolved a conflict on the funding of single sex schools that shed some light on the obligations of the state regarding public funding for non-governmental schools. About single sex schools the sentence mention that “the system of single-sex education is a pedagogical option which cannot be deemed as discriminatory. Therefore, it can be a part of the right of any private or non-governmental school to establish its own character”. About the particular character of a school the sentence continues saying that this ethos “can be considered to a great extent (…) the point of convergence that makes possible the exercise of the right of creation of educational institutions and the right of parents to choose the kind of education that they wish for their children, putting in connection educational supply and demand”.

Concerning the funding for these schools it says that the “public authorities shall give aid to teaching establishments which meet the requirements to be laid down by the law”. Moreover, recalling that basic education is compulsory and free by the Constitution the Court concludes that “it is incumbent upon the public authorities to promote conditions which ensure that the freedom and equality of individuals and of the groups to which they belong may be real and effective, to remove the obstacles which prevent or hinder their full enjoyment, and to facilitate the participation of all citizens in political, economic, cultural and social life”. The sentence continues “This constitutionally guaranteed free education cannot refer exclusively to the governmental or public school, denying it all private or non-governmental schools, since this would imply the compulsory nature of such a governmental education, at least at the basic level, preventing the real possibility to choose the basic education in any private centre. This would cut from the root not only the right of parents to choose a teaching centre, but also the right to create teaching centres enshrined in Article 27.6 of the Spanish Constitution (The right of individuals and legal entities to set up educational centres is recognised, provided they respect Constitutional principles). In this sense, public funding of private schools is at the service of the provision content enshrined in art. 27.4 of the Spanish Constitution (Elementary education is compulsory and free).“

From a Human Rights perspective we can celebrate this sentence for many reasons. First, because it considers the article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from a holistic perspective without dividing the freedom approach and the provision approach of the right to education. Second, and as a consequence of the first reason, because it considers the freedom approach of the right to education as something that goes beyond a mere liberty. Third, because its multiple references to international instruments such as the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the General Comment n°13 on the Right to Education.

Here you have the link to the entire sentence: https://www.boe.es/buscar/doc.php?id=BOE-A-2018-6823

Ignasi Grau

 

Debate in the Human Rights Council on privatization and the role of non-governamental schools

The Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education took place on July 26th and 27th during the 41th session of Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In this session, the Special Rapporteur’s report on the right to education and in particular on the increase of private actors’ s participation on the field of education had been discussed.

In this regard, we at OIDEL were concerned about the possible interpretation that states could face significant limitations in their relationship with schools in the private sector, in particular about the ways of funding non-governmental schools. These doubts were first communicated to the Special Rapporteur in private in order for the latter to clarify some points that could be problematic from a Human Rights perspective.

During the debate, the Special Rapporteur made a brief introduction remembering the state’s obligation to guarantee access to public, free and quality education for everyone. This aim is stated in goal number 4 of the 2030 Agenda.

Furthermore, Ms. Bally Barry showed her concerns about the increase of private actors in the field of education. In this sense, she insisted on the fact that states have to establish a framework to regulate the participation of these private actors. She also highlighted that her recommendations are inspired by the Abidjan Principles.

Even if states have to give priority to funding public education, the Special Rapporteur recalled that this obligation cannot imply the violation of the parent’s right to choose for their children other different schools from the ones offered by the state. The state has to respect this freedom and has to guarantee the right to create new non-governmental schools by civil society. The Special Rapporteur stressed the importance of this freedom in order to ensure protection of religious, philosophical and pedagogical beliefs of parents. 

After the introduction, delegations of different states intervened. Many of them thanked the Special Rapporteur for her work and they informed about the current situation of the right to education in their own countries. Also, many of them emphasized the use of public-private partnerships as a way of supporting education of children by the non-governmental institutions, in order to offer a better educational system overall.

Moreover, many delegations asked for examples of best practices on how states can form the most effective public-private partnerships while adhering to human rights principles.

After these interventions, NGO’s and members of the civil society had been given the floor. Director Ignasi Grau spoke for OIDEL and also on behalf of several other NGO’s.

In the oral statement, after thanking the Special Rapporteur for her work, OIDEL reclaimed some clarifications. In particular, OIDEL insisted on the importance of the role of non-governmental schools in order to achieve a pluralistic educational system and in order to protect the rights of minorities. Some elements of the report have to be clarified so they will not be misinterpreted as limiting the right to education and the freedom to choose. You can read the oral statement of OIDEL in this link.

The debate concluded with a summary statement of the special rapporteur. She acknowledged the important role of non-governmental and non-profit schools, especially in those places where the states do not have the resources to fulfil their obligations. In particular, Ms. Bolly Barry praised the strategies developed by countries such as France  (with institutions as “l’école sous contrat”) or Tunisia where public-private partnerships have been launched, contributing to offer higher quality education. 

It’s vitally important to underline the distinction made by the special rapporteur to close the debate. Ms. Bolly Barry clarified that, when she mentions private actors whose practices imply a threat to right to education, she exclusively refers to private mercantilists and the for-profit sector – not civil society’s schools, including religious schools. This way, the special rapporteur affirmed the importance of state support for civil society in the field of education in order to achieve the best posible realization of the right to education. 

 

Amelia Suárez Picazo