Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) yesterday told lawmakers that when private schools close down, their land and assets must be returned to the foundation that ran them, not to an individual or private company.
Speaking to a meeting of the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee, Chiang was responding to questions raised by Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan’s (李鴻源) recent suggestion that private schools’ land be converted to commercial use as an incentive to get schools with declining enrollments to close.
That suggestion was questioned by educators and civic organizations who said it amounted to permitting business groups to profit through land speculation and manipulation of transactions.
Chiang said that a private school’s main consideration is serving the public interest, therefore when declining enrollment forces a school to shut, the same objective would apply.
When a private school ceases operating, the ministry will monitor the closing to ensure the proper handling of teachers’ severance packages and student transfers.
Lee’s suggestion was aimed at helping resolve a school’s financial issues, such as employee severance packages or outstanding back wages, Chiang said, but it was just a suggestion.
The public’s interest comes first, Chiang told the lawmakers, so the money from the conversion of a private school’s land would go to the school’s legal foundation.
The legislature in December 2011 approved an amendment to the Private School Act (私立學校法) to allow private school land to be used for other purposes related to cultural and social welfare institutions.
The amendment exempted private schools from being subject to a penalty under the Land Tax Act (土地稅法) for converting their land to a use inconsistent with the original designated purpose. Violators face a fine equal to double the land value increment tax.