Half of land from shut down schools could be recouped
By Lauly Li, The China PostTAIPEI, Taiwan -- Education Minister Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) yesterday proposed that 50 percent of a private school's land should be returned to the government once the school is shut down.
October 4, 2013, 12:17 am TWN
Minister of the Interior (MOI) Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) stated during an interpellation in the Legislative Yuan that if the land of a private school is within the scope of an urban redevelopment project, then at least 30 to 40 percent of the land could be confiscated by local government.
Lee added that the MOI does not rule out the possibility of proposing a higher land-confiscation ratio.
Chiang, who also attended the interpellation, then proposed that 50 percent of the land could be recouped, 25 percent of remaining land used for public use, and only 25 percent of the land would then be sold for business use.
Chiang explained that “public use” means that 25 percent of school land would be repurposed for social welfare institutions, such as nursing homes.
In an effort to reduce the number of universities and secondary schools amid a shrinking student population, the MOI has recently permitted private school boards to sell their land for other use, as a way to encourage private schools to be repurposed.
Commentators and several lawmakers have questioned whether such a proposal will lead to profiteering by private school boards as school lands are usually bought far under market price in the first place.
Chiang said that the profit from 25 percent of the land has to pay teacher's salaries; all remaining funds would go toward legal personalities instead of individuals.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said that according to the current Private School Law, a repurposed private school can only be used for education or social welfare purposes.
Lin said this means the land cannot be used for commercial purposes, noting that if the Ministry of Education (MOE) does not amend the Private School Law, then neither the MOI nor the MOE's proposals would be practical in terms of reducing the number of universities and secondary schools.
Lee said the Executive Yuan has formed a cross-department team to study the matter, noting that the team will also discuss the issue of the Private School Law.
I-Shou University (義守大學) President Shaw Jei-fu (蕭介夫) was quoted by the United Evening News as saying that the government should discuss the issue with private school boards before implementing any policies.
Shaw said the government should gather more information about every private school's difficulties and the boards' positions, noting that the government cannot rely solely on their imagination in proposing the selling of school lands to solve problems.
Feng Chia University (逢甲大學) President Lee Bing-jean (李秉乾) said in other countries, private schools also encounter difficulty in increasing student numbers, urging the MOE to take other countries' experiences into account.