Left-wing MPs tabled a bill on Tuesday to “guarantee free education” for school and secondary school students. Textbooks, canteens, equipment, as well as extracurricular activities will be affected at a cost of nearly 8 billion euros per year.
In France, education is free, but going to school has a price. The cost of the bus, lunch canteen, notebooks and pens or even school trips weighs on family budgets, despite social tariffs set by local authorities. To prevent these inequalities from further prospering, the New People’s Environmental and Social Union Bill aims for the state to absorb all these costs borne by families.
“We want to guarantee a truly free education”, defends Paul Vanier (La France insoumise), author of the text signed by 104 of his disobedient colleagues, socialists, communists and environmentalists. According to the selected LFI, the back-to-school allowance (around €400 per year) paid to the most modest families for each child “not enough to cover these costs”. It is also a matter of taking literally the preamble of the Constitution which states that “the organization of free and secular public education at all levels is the duty of the state”.
Through three articles, the proposed law aims to have the costs financed by the state “chairs, transportation, field trips, extracurricular activities, textbooks and school supplies“for approximately 10 million students enrolled in public schools. School trips will also be covered, the LCP vice-chairman specified. On the other hand, private schools (1.8 million students) and home-schooling families will not be affected .
In total, the cost of the measures provided for in the text will amount to 7.9 billion euros per year for public finances, according to its author. A figure which takes into account the increase in chair attendance which will no doubt be due to full free entry. Paul Vanier also believes that his proposal is not intended to call into question the back-to-school allowance which allows “covering important expenses for families in September, such as clothing or sports club membership”.
Introduced two days before the start of the school year, this bill breathes life into the education debate. But nothing says at this stage that it can be discussed by the National Assembly and thus have a chance to be implemented. For this, it needs to be included in the agenda by the majority or the government, which seems unlikely, like most opposition texts.
It is therefore within the ‘parliamentary niches’ granted to minority groups that this text has the best chance of being considered. The first day of the Nupes parliamentary initiative will take place on November 24 and will be in the hands of La France insoumise. But Paul Vanier has not confirmed his registration on that date and puts the ball back in the government’s court: “The minister of the city [Olivier Klein] raised the issue of free school supplies, I take him at his word: the National Assembly is ready”says the elected Val d’Oise.