The Parliament of Navarre this Thursday approved a bill guaranteeing the retention of positions and working conditions for teachers of religion in community centers, despite the fact that the reduction of the subject’s hours to “one hour a week” will leave up to 56 of the 145 specialists teaching it without a teaching load, that is thirty%. The norm guarantees the work of these teachers, despite the fact that they are not civil servants, and it is the bishopric who appoints them “for the implementation of this teaching” on the basis of the 1979 Concordat of Spain with the Holy See.
The norm has drawn opposition from the Foral government and has an opinion against the Council of Navarre, the community’s advisory body. The law was approved by the votes of Geroa Bai, a member of the executive branch chaired by socialist Maria Civite, and the Navarra Suma opposition formation, consisting of the UPN, PP and Ciudadanos. It is established that temporary changes in the subject of Religion cannot mean for a group of teachers with an indefinite contract “the loss of a job or a reduction in the percentage of their contracts.”
Navarra Suma and Geroa Bai added a note in the oral amendment that strengthens the “authority of the Department of Education to organize the teaching activities of these teachers in terms of their current work and appointment.” Thus, the new law guarantees teachers contracts and their current schedules, even though the religious teaching load will be cut in half over the next two academic years, and four out of ten specialists will be left without classes.
According to the Council of Navarre, the approved text is inconsistent with current legislation as it is inconsistent with Lomlow and Royal Decree 696/2007, which considered these workers to be permanent. State law establishes that the working hours of teaching staff “will be in accordance with the competent education administrations”, without prejudice to changes that “should take place in connection with educational planning”. This opinion is non-binding and was not unanimous as 2 out of 5 of its components voted in favor of the proposal.
The Department of Education must guarantee the conditions for this teaching staff. Since they do not have enough workload, they will have to look for additional functions, such as, for example, performing functions responsible for coexistence. This is expected to result in a significant additional cost to the provincial treasury as religion hours will be allocated to a different subject and more teachers will need to be hired. At the time, the provincial government published an unfavorable report on the proposal and estimated additional costs at €2.5 million per year.
After the norm was approved, Minister of Education Carlos Gimeno said in an interview with SER Navarra that “this law will cause pedagogical, economic and organizational difficulties” because “it allows you to change the location of the teaching staff, but not a shortcut.” Gimeno points to the possibility of an appeal against the norm, since there are already sentences preventing this teaching staff from teaching another subject that is not religion. He argues that the suitability afforded by the bishopric for their offices is limited to their activities as teachers of that subject.
The “Religion of Navarre on School Platform” platform is satisfied with the passage of the law. He believes that “certain ideological politics” has sparked “a debate that hasn’t happened before” not only about this group of teachers, but about the very topic of religion. The group guarantees that it will continue to bet on a “decent” presence of the subject of religion in the classroom with a minimum of two weekly sessions.
The unions represented on the Board of Education have reiterated their opposition to this rule, as they consider it to be a relative affront to other teachers who objected to access to their position. They lament the damage that could be done to the teachers of religion themselves, as they believe that this regional law will eventually be challenged, leaving them in a situation of uncertainty. Among the solutions proposed so far by trade unions is asking the government and the affected teachers to agree on a collective solution or even organize trips so that the same specialist can complete his daytime training at several centers.
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