Half of public education in the Netherlands has become independent in the last ten years. In the period 2003–2006 in particular, many state schools installed an independent board of governors. The most common legal form they choose is the foundation.
School independence possible since 1996
There are two types of schools in the Netherlands: private schools and public schools. Private schools, which include denominational schools, have always had an independent governing body. The public schools fall under responsibility of municipal government. Since 1996 municipalities have had the option of installing an independent. board of governors for public schools.
Continuing trend for independence
The process of installing independent governing bodies started in secondary education. But more recently, primary schools and special needs schools have also been installing independent school boards.
This trend is continuing: in 2006 independent public schools received 2 billion euro of government funding directly, instead of via the municipal coffers.
Municipally financed education
Municipal councils may decide to make schools independent for a number of reasons. The most important reasons are the increased autonomy for the schools and the separation of the double role played by the municipality. Municipal government can concentrate on local education policy once they are no longer responsible for the education itself. In addition, when smaller schools merge into one larger one, municipalities often opt for an independent board of governors. A change in the way a school is financed may also be a reason to install an independent governing body.
When a school becomes independent, its legal form changes. In all cases the responsibility of public education is transferred from the municipal council to an independent legal body, usually a foundation.
Independent school governing bodies by legal form, 31 December 2006
Large differences between provinces
Not all provinces have the same number of public schools. In Limburg and Brabant, where public education is less common, relatively more schools have become independent. In provinces where public education is quite common, such as Drenthe, Flevoland and Groningen, the number of schools becoming independent is relatively small.
Public education per province, 31 December 2006