26. Education and rights of parents

10 Spanish organizations made public – in 2006 – an agreement by the education and freedom for which they undertook jointly to defend the right of parents to choose the education they want for their children. The undersigned organizations have issued a document entitled, “The right of parents to choose the education in freedom,” which sets out the basic principles that underlie the constitutional right to education. It was a reaction to the law of the Socialist Government that infringes the right of parents to educate their children.

The document explains, in the first place, is the right of parents to choose, which has two inseparable aspects: “It is a provisional right that legitimizes receiving instruction, which is its own object” and is a “freedom right, which obliges us to respect the diversity of the citizens and the liberty of parents to choose schools other than those established by the public authorities.” The right to education is only met fully and properly when these two aspects are covered. That is why all these organizations claim that “education is not a public service but a service of general interest, which should be guaranteed by the authorities, and that requires a school offer both. The public and private education are complementary, both essential for freedom of education. The more varied the schools, the more it perfects the right to choose”.

The undersigned organizations claim in the document made public that “the public authorities do not have the right to educate citizens because that right is above all the responsibility of the parents, to whom have been ensured the freedom to decide on the type of education they want for their children, without more limits than those imposed by the constitutional order: the respect for the democratic principles of coexistence and for fundamental rights and freedoms.”

The document submitted by the mentioned organizations explains the contents that are derived from the freedom of education that our Magna Carta recognizes:

– The right of parents to decide on the type of education they want for their children;

– The right of parents to freedom in the basic and mandatory levels, both in the primary and secondary schools;

– The right of parents to choose the teaching center, either public or private;

– The right of private schools to receive public funds, when they meet the requirements established by law;

– The right to create and lead educational centers.

– The right to define the proper character or ideology of the private centers, which extends to the pedagogical and organizational aspects, not only to the moral and religious.

On the other hand, the signatory organizations of the document have explained that the right this freedom is also a constitutional right of parents, regardless of the type of center and of the educational model of their choice, provided that the centers meet the requirements established by law. The document also refers to the State aconfesionalidad, which requires it “to remain neutral in the face of religious options or agnostics of its citizens.” This implies that the State cannot compel the convictions of families outside of school. The State has the obligation to “make possible the existence of centers that respond to the pluralism of citizens,” without imposing any ideology or manipulating freedom. The right to choose implies, on the other hand, “the freedom to create schools and direct them with autonomy,” which contributes to a real “school pluralism that protects every person and the family from an excessive intervention from the state.” These organizations consider that, “in the case of the private school, the frame of reference for the free choice of the parents is the character of the Center, which the holder ensures as a coherent educational project, that involves all the members of the educational community.” But they also ensure that “the public school should enjoy broad autonomy to also offer a teaching project plural to parents.” The natural diversity, therefore, cannot be treated adequately with a single model of teaching, nor would it be legitimate to impose it.

The document “The right of parents to choose the education in freedom,” also refers to the role of the social initiative, since the experience of the most advanced countries shows that “the management of the education system is too complex to be borne exclusively by the public authorities.” In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, the organizations that have submitted it, explain that the educational administrations must respect the social initiative, which will contribute, on the other hand, to alleviate the overload of the administrations, which as well will be in “a better position to protect and respect individual freedoms, to improve the public centers and to take care of those needs that do not meet the social initiative.” Finally, and in order to make the educational system more effective, these organizations request that they meet the following requirements:

– Make possible the freedom to choose the center and to ensure that parents are involved in their children’s education.

– To raise the social and economic consideration of the teachers.

– To strengthen the autonomy of the schools, both public and private.

– Ensure a personalized education which attends to the diversity of students.

– The active participation of parents in all educational forums: from the school to the most representative bodies of the State.

The signatories of this agreement for education and freedom insist that the single model of teaching that calls for a public education that “is anchored in the past and is regressive,” as the society is moving toward a growing ideological and cultural pluralism that the State has to respect.

On this matter also expressed the Spanish Episcopal Conference, stating that the Education Law (LOE) approved by the Government was unacceptable.

In a statement which was read by the Secretary of the Episcopal Conference, Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, expressed the disagreement of the Catholic Church toward the LOE, since “it cuts out the fundamental right of parents to decide about the education of their children in accordance with their religious, moral and pedagogical convictions.” According to the Bishops, the LOE in addition “seriously limits the freedom of Catholic schools and other educational institutions of social initiative in the exercise of their rights to education.”

On the other hand, assured the father Martinez Camino, “seriously jeopardizes the teaching of religion in the school and arbitrates a new statute of religion teachers that contradicts the settled case law of the Supreme Court.”

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