Ko pushes private preschool grant

THE MAIN OBJECTIVE::Ko Wen-je said that the subsidy would be terminated once the ratio of public and nonprofit preschools to public preschools reaches 7:3

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Thu, May 17, 2018 - Page 3

The Taipei City Government yesterday earmarked a supplementary budget of about NT$132 million (US$4.42 million) to provide tuition subsidies to parents who have children aged three or four enrolled in private preschools in the city.

In his report to the Taipei City Council, Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said that many parents feel a sense of loss when they cannot secure a spot for their child at a public preschool.

Nonprofit preschools are scarce and the tuition fees for private preschools are much higher, he said.

Ideally, 40 percent of preschools should be public and 30 percent should be nonprofit, with the remaining 30 percent being private, Ko said, adding that public preschools currently account for about 42 percent of all preschools and nonprofit preschools for about 6 percent

The city government proposed a tuition subsidy of NT$13,660 per semester to parents for each child they have who is three or four years old and is enrolled in a private preschool, starting on Aug. 30. It asked city councilors to approve the supplementary budget to implement the policy.

The city government is also this year planing to add 48 classes (1,270 student slots) at nonprofit preschools and 34 classes (510 slots) for two-year-olds at public preschools, Ko said.

There is still no clear consensus as to whether two-year-olds should be sent to preschool, so it is best to provide the subsidy to three and four-year-olds first and to conduct surveys to understand why many two-year-olds are not enrolled in preschools, he said.

To prevent private preschools from increasing tuition fees once the policy is enforced, they would first be required to apply to the Taipei Department of Education and issue tuition fee receipts for inspection, Ko said, but added that the government would not be so strict regarding private preschool teachers’ salary increases.

While most councilors did not object to the proposal, Taipei City Councilor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊) of the People First Party said that the policy should include a sunset provision, because the costs could negatively affect the city’s finances in the long run.

The subsidy would be terminated once the ratio of public and nonprofit preschools to public preschools reaches 7:3, Ko said, adding that the education department estimates that this could be achieved by 2022.

Taipei City Councilor Li Keng Kuei-fang (厲耿桂芳), of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), asked why Ko did not propose the policy earlier, because implementing the policy in September, two months before the Taipei mayoral election, might seem like he is trying win support for his re-election.

KMT Taipei City Councilor Wu Shih-cheng (吳世正) said that Ko promised to achieve the 7:3 public-to-private preschool ratio during his campaign, but has failed to do so.

Ko said that it takes time to formulate government policies and this particular policy took about a year to plan.