Summary of FLT’s actions since the beginning of “School from Home” – continued
During this period of school lock-down, the Parents Association FLT has been supporting the community by providing a venue for parent’s feed-back. Our last message was highly commented , with expression of both support and criticism. We would like to clarify some points in order to ensure a healthy and productive communication between all parents.
One of our main stated goals during the October 15th-17th election was to make it possible for all families to enrol their children at the LFI Tokyo, regardless of their income. We still stand behind this goal, even while facing the COVID-19 crisis. We have put all our efforts in ensuring that no family would have to leave the school because of financial difficulties. We worked with the school to establish the Solidarity Fund, for families who suffered financial losses and thus, help families who need it now to keep their children in school. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you are in this position. Note that FLT made a 900 000 yens donation to this fund, in the name of all the parents who have been contributing by paying a FLT membership over the years.
Our second goal is to take part in the School’s budgeting process to stabilize the tuition fees for all the students enrolled. We have consistently been opposed to tuition raises and tried to find alternatives whenever possible. It was the case when the first-time enrolment fees were raised last year. We hold a minority stake in the administrative board and cannot block decisions. With your support, we can only lobby and advise the administration regarding the consequences on families. Thanks to our extended knowledge of the school’s financial situation, over the years, we helped limit the raises in fees by forcing the administration to justify all increases.
Then, why did we oppose a general discount of 3rd trimester fees for all families?
First of all, we would like to mention that the FLT executive committee is made up of volunteer parents with diverse financial and family backgrounds, nationalities, competences and perceptions. This diversity made us well aware of the different ways in which the crisis has affected the LFI Tokyo families.
However, it appears that decreasing the tuition fees for all families would have jeopardized the school’s financial stability (since the school does not make any profit and reserves are already earmarked for investments to improve the school). Some comments were especially harsh so we feel that we need to explain our position more clearly.
- Without help from the French Government , any decrease in fees this year will need to be fully compensated by the families in the near future. This is an essential point for us. At the end of the day, the school budget almost entirely depends on the tuitions paid by families. Any decrease in revenues will have to be compensated either by decreasing the service or increasing the cost in the future. FAPEE (mother organization for FLT, regrouping most parents associations of French School abroad) is lobbying the French Government and parliament members to increase financial support to AEFE (paid by French taxpayers). If this was to happen, we would obviously not oppose a generalised decrease of fees. Without this guarantee however, having a general decrease this trimester would only mean higher tuition later.
- One of LFI Tokyo specificity is to be located in a zone which has high risk for Seismic disasters, tsunami, exchange rate fluctuation. These risks are added to the present COVID-19 situation. The AEFE requires such schools to have a higher reserve level than others located in lower risk areas, limiting the latitude to use the financial reserves.
- The school is presently using part of these reserves to cover the loss due to the reimbursements of cafeteria, transport fees to families and extra curricular activity fees. The school chose not to fire any personnel so these costs are essentially fixed. The Finance Director assured us that these costs do not currently jeopardize budget stability but they are nevertheless consequential.
- The school has some equity and some parents suggested using it. Part of it is set aside for the school extension project, since it reached saturation last year. If they are put to other uses, they will need to be recovered later through tuition increase and potentially losing the currently negotiated opportunity to extend at a reasonable cost. We raised the hypothesis that some families may go back to France due to the COVID-19 crisis reducing the need to extend the school’s capacity but so far no registration has been cancelled. Since this reserve has been accumulated over many years through the collective financial efforts of all families, the extension project should not be jeopardized without a clear view of all the implied consequences in terms of security, teaching quality and accessibility.
- To help families in financial difficulties, we asked that the proposed augmentation of tuition fees for next year (+1.8%) be postponed and a possible decrease in tuition for Kindergarten. The cost of such measures needs to be evaluated. We have asked the school for feedback and will be waiting to hear their answers on the June 4th Administration Council. We will also keep you updated as always.
Several messages questioned the representativity of the FLT Parent association. We would like to reassert that we have always been careful to transmit ALL questions and opinions that we receive from parents to the school’s management, regardless of whether the parents are membership-paying members of the association. These questions are discussed within the executive committee and we often recontact the parent who contacted us to get additional information. We synthesize the questions to maximize the effectiveness of our discussion/negotiation with the school administration. The parents who have been recontacted can testify that all this behind-the-scenes work usually takes place on week-ends and late at night.
A group of parents has been formed to request a reduction of 3rd trimester fees. We recommended asking for help from the consular counsellors. In the past, there have been separate parents groups who have conducted their own specific actions outside of the parents association. For example at the beginning of the school year, a group of parents requested a higher ceiling for overnight school trips with which we did not agree.
We have also supported the group of parents setting up the ‘Eco-team’. We do not oppose the creation of these groups nor their initiatives as it brings to light different ideas and positions. Historically, the reason for having only one association representing the parents is that the number of parents volunteering their time and energy was not enough to sustain separate associations.
All along the school year and in the years before we have taken actions for the school’s community: organizing information meetings, training parents elected as class representative parents, organizing Cap-Jeux, “Lycee-cafe” for non French-speaking parents, environmental actions, etc… During this crisis, we also donated 900 000 JPY (from the FLT membership fees) to the solidarity fund to help ALL families in difficult situations.
We are always looking for volunteers to come and join our rank and we thank all of you who help us all through the year. We are an association with a goal: helping ALL the families of the LFI Tokyo community. We understand that other groups may have a different agenda but encourage all respectful discussions to fully reflect the diversity of our school community.
It does not stop here. Wednesday (May 27th) will be the meeting to discuss our school’s restarting protocole. We will be back soon to inform you.
The FLT association