Council-run schools would receive a larger piece of the state funding pie by reducing subsidies to private schools under a proposal unveiled by the deputy mayor for children and young people, Anne Vang (Socialdemokraterne).
Vang’s proposal to reduce the amount of state subsidies to private schools by half is supported by a majority in the City Council. The money would instead be diverted to increase the resources at schools with greater numbers of socially-disadvantaged students.
“It’s scandalous that private schools with almost no socially-disadvantaged children have far more money to operate than council-run schools,” Vang told Politiken newspaper. “My proposal would make it more expensive to send your child to a private school. It would make the middle class less likely to choose private schools, which is one of the goals of the proposal.”
The proposal comes on the heels of a City Council report showing that increasing numbers of parents are choosing to send their children to private schools. As a result, schools in Copenhagen are becoming increasingly polarised.
One example presented in Information newspaper was Blågårds School in the inner city district of Nørrebro. Compared with the national average, it is a poorly performing school. Moreover, two-thirds of its students come from bilingual or socially-disadvantaged backgrounds, as opposed to the national average of one-third of students.
In the catchment area for Blågaårds School, some 45 percent of children are sent to private schools. The high number of privately-educated children comes as a bit of a surprise, given that almost 50 percent of voters in the district voted for the two most left-wing – and pro-public school – parties, Enhedslisten and Socialistisk Folkeparti.
According to Niels Egelund, a professor of education at Aarhus University, the high number of children in the district attending private schools is due to fears over the level of education in public schools.
“Private schools are no longer a choice of ideology,” Egelund told Information. “Choosing a private school has more to do with not choosing the public system and that presents us with a big problem. It may be the case that you vote left-wing, but when it comes to your children, people choose with their hearts, not their minds.”
In Vang’s mission to support the city’s socially-disadvantaged children, she also proposed this summer to reduce the funding for youth and after-school clubs in more affluent parts of the city in order to increase funding in disadvantaged areas.
“Our clubs are very socially divided because the well-off children are fleeing from the clubs in troubled areas of the city," Vang told Politiken in June. "These clubs simply don’t have enough staff because they are spending a lot of their time doing social work. It’s not fair.”
Despite its broad support in the council, Vang’s school funding proposal is unlikely to get the go-ahead. School funding is written into national law, and the education minister, Christine Antorini (Socialdemokraterne), has ruled out making any alterations.
“The government has no plans to transfer funds from private to council-run schools,” Antorini told Politiken. “Our ambition is to make public schools even better and a more natural choice. But we don’t want to finance it by taking money from private schools.”
Antorini added that she was interested in finding ways to make public schools educate more socially-disadvantaged students.
Last year, the government set aside an extra million kroner a year to 14 schools across Denmark to improve the language of skills of children with immigrant backgrounds.