Photo: Spokesperson for the Moncloa Palace, Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, at a press conference on Friday. (Credit: ACN)
By Joan Serra Carné and Sara González
16th February, 2018
Controversy deepened today, in relation to a meeting held today by Mariano Rajoy and Catalan Civil Society, a Spanish organization opposed to linguistic immersion in the Catalan school system. It was the Secretary of State for Education, Marcial Marín, who confirmed that the Spanish government was studying the introduction of a option for parents to choose Spanish as lead language during the pre-enrollment period for school, at the end of March. And the Minister of Education, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, stated on Friday that the Moncloa is studying changing the language immersion model.
Appealing to the power granted to him by the 155 as manager of the Ministry of Education of the Generalitat, Méndez de Vigo has described this as a “technical question” regarding changes to the application process, but has admitted that they respond to the fact that the Spanish government does not “agree” with the manner in which the Generalitat guarantees the use of the Spanish language in classrooms and the “rights of parents” to choose how they want to educate their children. “We are studying it. But, without a doubt, we will do it,” said the Minister of Education and spokesman of the Moncloa. Méndez de Vigo has detailed that changes will be applied “in agreement” with the provisions of the judicial rulings of the Constitutional Court and the TSJC, because that is an “obligation” of the executive chamber. He did not clarify, however, how it would be compatible with the Catalan Education Law (LEC).
In fact, whilst he emphasized that he has not talked about “a tickbox” and that his initiative does not propose a “change in the educational model,” he has confirmed that they are studying how to ensure that 25% of the classes are taught in Spanish, a percentage which makes reference to a recent TC ruling. The objective, he said, is to “guarantee the right of parents” to choose the education of their children and, at the same time, guarantee the “correct functioning” of the Catalan educational model. Given the skeptical reception the statements received in different circles and media, implying the proposal was simply “hot air” by the Partido Popular, but that they would not dare implement it, Méndez de Vigo was forceful: “we are not simply testing the water here.”
The alarms sounded this Thursday among the majority of the educational community, including the unions and the Catalan parties, who closed ranks around a pedagogical model that considers that it already guarantees equality of opportunities to all students. Not only have the pro-sovereignty groups clamoured to defend against what they believe to be an attempt by the Spanish government to use article 155 to disassemble the Catalan public education model, but the Catalan Socialist Party also defended the current model.
Some voices framed this proposal by the Rajoy government within the struggle his Partido Popular is having with Ciudanos (Citizens Party). The day after meeting with Rajoy, Catalan Civil Society met with the party of Albert Rivera and Inés Arrimadas. In any case, to rethink or defend the linguistic model of schooling, the independentist parties need to agree on forming a government and regain control of councils, which are at present in the hands of the Spanish executive.
155, the State’s resource to renew deals with Opus schools
Méndez de Vigo also announced during the press conference that the Council of Ministers approved the renewal of 1,956 educational agreements for the next four years. They are contracts with private centers funded by public funds, and linked to pre-school and secondary levels, because in primary school, the minister recalled, these contracts are still in vigour. The renewal of the agreements lasts for four years.
Fifteen of the schools that have renewed their agreements with the State are from Opus Dei and segregated by gender. The pro-independence parties had already agreed – it was one of the sine qua non conditions of the CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy party) to support the inauguration of Carles Puigdemont – that they would stop financing with this type of educational center with €40 million of public money.
Payment of 20% of extra 2012 bonus to civil servants
The Council of Ministers also approved the payment of 20% extra pay for officials dating back to 2012, which had not been paid due to cuts made by the Government of Artur Mas at the time. “Extraordinary measures had to be taken and we were left to revert the situation wherever possible,” said Méndez de Vigo. In fact, the payment was planned and all the Rajoy government has done now has authorized it.