Debate: Magdalena Andersson, why do you want to close 900 schools?

Charlie Taylor

Following the dissolution of the January Agreement, the Social Democrats have made the issue of political control over all welfare activities their top priority. At the (S) Congress last autumn, a decision was made to ban profiteering for independent schools. The effects in people’s reality and everyday life of such a ban would be very far-reaching. We can take (S) leader Magdalena Andersson’s own home municipality Nacka as an example. 33 percent of all school places in Nacka are in independent schools that are run in the form of companies. As a result, almost 7,000 children and young people would be affected by the ban. But not only thousands of students and parents among the Prime Minister’s neighbors in Nacka are affected. An overall review shows that the education for hundreds of thousands of students in hundreds of Sweden’s municipalities is now being jeopardized. In the report that the Freedom of Choice Commission presents today, we have compiled the extent of the closures that will be the consequences for the Swedish school: · In total, there are around 900 independent primary and secondary schools across the country that are run as limited companies and thus risk disappearing with a ban on profit withdrawal. · In these schools today there are around 225,000 students. They go there because they and their parents have chosen these schools. · The approximately 900 schools are located in 134 of the country’s municipalities. In these schools, students from all 290 municipalities in the country go, as an important part of the independent school reform was to enable school choice across municipal boundaries. If those who have invested money in starting and running these schools cannot receive interest on their capital supply, the opportunity to run the business further disappears. This is in comparison with the fact that other companies were prohibited from paying interest on their loans. The average profit level is low in the school sector, just over three percent before tax. This can be compared with, for example, the manufacturing industry, where profit margins often amount to 10–20 per cent. Most of the surplus in the school sector is reinvested in existing businesses or in opening new schools, as more and more parents have chosen independent schools for their children year after year. The profit that goes to the owners of the schools corresponds to 10 öre for every 100 notes spent on the country’s primary and secondary schools. If you think that this is the Swedish school’s problem, you close your eyes to its lack of results. A summary of the municipalities where most students would be affected looks like this:Most affected students:Täby 52% (8413 students) Upplands Väsby 41% (2599 students) Solna 38% (3310 students) Nacka 33% (6990 students) Strängnäs 32% (1820 students) Nyköping 30% (2970 students) Helsingborg 29% (7645 students) Sundsvall 29% (4507 students) Älvdalen 28% (297 students) Österåker 28% (1831 students) Vellinge 27% (1638 students) Bollnäs 27% (1059 students) Stockholm 26% (39299 students) Falun 26% (2716 students) Sollentuna 25% (3482 students) Gävle 24% (4109 students) Södertälje 23% (3385 students) Sundbyberg 23% (1540 students) Mörbylånga 23% (440 students) Landskrona 22% (1359 students) We two signatories of this article have approached us the issue of pupils ‘and parents’ right to choose their own school from a political point of view. We know that the individual’s own decision-making right and freedom of choice today is an indispensable, appreciated and fundamental part of Swedish welfare. After more than thirty years of continuous individualisation of the welfare services, this right is now in practice threatened in a Swedish election movement. This can only be called a system change. After the ban, the municipal schools and a very small number of smaller independent schools run by foundations and cooperatives will remain. Although these independent schools play a very important role in the Swedish school system, they have a limited interest in growing and regularly do not have the financial opportunities required to start new schools. The consequences will also be that the country’s municipalities must quickly resolve the acute school shortage that will arise. If the independent schools disappear, each municipality must by law arrange new school places for its inhabitants. Lots of new schools need to be built. In parts of the country we will see an acute shortage of teachers. In the analysis presented today, preschools that are run in the form of companies have not been included. An additional 61,000 children will therefore be added to the large number of affected students. The ban would lead to queues for preschool that we have not seen in Sweden for decades. The worst risk is for smaller municipalities, which often already have a vulnerable financial situation. Many smaller municipalities are dependent on being able to have students in independent schools in nearby larger municipalities. If that opportunity disappears, they will have to quickly find new alternatives, which will be expensive and create great uncertainty for hundreds of thousands of students and parents. A responsible governing party should now start talking openly about how to deal with the problems, the consequences for the citizens and the effects for the Swedish school. The Swedish school debate is very much about the well-functioning schools that are threatened with closure because they are independent. A more reasonable starting point for the Swedish school debate should be to help students who are forced to leave school barely approved or evenly approved or without approved upper secondary school qualifications, not to overthrow those who have chosen a school that they appreciate and thrive in. No child in Sweden should have to go to a bad school, but unfortunately far too many do. Last year, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate reported a review of the 28 compulsory schools in Sweden that for ten years had a high proportion of students without approved grades in all subjects. 26 of the 28 schools are municipal. According to the National Agency for Education’s statistics, 95 of the 100 schools in Sweden with the lowest proportion of students with approved grades in year 6 are run by municipalities. Against this background, anyone can see that it is neither the independent schools ‘profits nor the independent schools’ knowledge transfer that constitute the Swedish school In view of the queues that currently exist for independent schools, the (S) government should therefore rather welcome the fact that popular independent schools can open new schools in more parts of the country. 000 students risk losing the school they have chosen, which they like and which succeeds with their education. Gunnar HökmarkChairman of the Freedom of Choice Commission, formerly a Member of the European Parliament and Party Secretary (M)Stefan Stern, member of the Freedom of Choice Commission, former state secretary and assistant. party secretary (S)

Commission on Freedom of Choice

The Freedom of Choice Commission is based on the Friends of Freedom of Choice network, which is a network of entrepreneurs and business leaders with a commitment to freedom of choice and free enterprise.

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