Union protests regulation change for closing schools

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Jun 23, 2017 - Page 3

Rule changes that profit a closed university in Pingtung County risk setting a dangerous precedent as the nation prepares for massive school closures and consolidations, union members said yesterday in a protest outside the Ministry of Education.

“Because the ministry knew that Yung Ta Institute of Technology and Commerce would not be able to transition before August and it did not want to disband its board and auction off its property, it chose in January to stealthily amend the rules,” Taiwan Higher Education Union director Chen Shu-han (陳書涵) said, criticizing a portion of the amendment that grants schools closed prior to implementation of the rules an additional three years to transition.

The private institute was closed in 2014 due to dwindling student numbers, the second school in what is expected to be a massive wave of closings as the nation’s student population plummets after years of low birth rates.

The school submitted multiple transition plans, which were repeatedly rejected by the ministry.

“Today, Yung Ta is a test case for public schools, because if the ministry does not take over its property, it is effectively giving it to the private school board,” union secretary-general Chen Cheng-liang (陳正亮) said.

Union members also said there was a NT$400 million (US$13.14 million) drop in school property holdings to NT$1 billion over the past three years, according to general financial reports, and called for public scrutiny of its books and a ban on schools donating property to other non-profits with connections to board members.

“The new rules add a requirement that schools must finish their transition and will be disbanded if they do not,” said Chang Chia-yu (張嘉育), a senior specialist at the ministry’s Department of Technological and Vocational Education.

Provisions extending Yung Ta’s deadline were designed to avoid legal liability, she said, adding that the ministry could have been sued if it had applied the new rules retroactively.