Private teachers 'paid with public money'
The top education official in Suining, Sichuan, and a headmaster at one of its schools have been accused of using public money to pay teachers at two schools operated by a company they run.
The two schools - the Foreign Language Experimental School at Suining Middle School and the Experimental School at Suining No2 Middle School - charge students between 4,000 yuan (HK$4,589) and 4,300 yuan a year. Students at public schools pay almost nothing under the country's nine-year compulsory schooling system.
A document from the city's price administration shows that both experimental schools are owned by Suining Jingcheng Education Investment. The company acquired them for a total of 199 million yuan, the city's Supervision Bureau said last month. However an investigation by the China Youth Daily found that Suining Education Bureau director Zhang Yongfu owns the company and Xu Yuquan , the principal of Suining No2 Middle School, is its general manager.
A China Youth Daily report yesterday said that many of the teachers at the two experimental schools were still on the payrolls of the parent schools and paid from public coffers, a gross violation of the Law on the Promotion of Non-public Schools enacted in September 2003.
The two schools were set up as part of privatisation drive launched by the Ministry of Education 12 years ago to attract private investment to make up for the lack of public funding in the school system.
However the privatisation push has been a source of growing public discontent over the years, with many prestigious public schools making money from affiliated campuses disguised as private schools, to the disadvantage of some authentic private schools.
Dr Chu Zhaohui , a research fellow at the National Institute for Educational Research, said the two experimental schools in Suining were typical of those disguised as private schools - often with official blessing. 'Their intention is to charge tuition fees to benefit vested interests,' he said.
Chu said that as a result of fierce competition for places at elite schools, parents had no choice but to pay for a place at such 'pseudo' private schools, where their children could have access to quality teaching and better a chance of getting into an elite senior high school.
He said that if there was a valid reason to change the ownership of a public school, the move should be approved by the city's people's congress - its legislature - and not the government, especially the education bureau.
The education bureau did not respond to inquiries yesterday.
Pseudo private schools
Teachers at two private schools were allegedly paid with public money
The amount, in yuan, Suining Jingcheng Education Investment paid for the two schools is: 199m yuan