Compulsory tendering of schoolbooks is costing schools money which could be better spent

3 September 2008

Compulsory tendering of schoolbooks is costing schools money which could be better spent

In both the European Parliament and the national parliament in The Hague, the SP has now raised the matter of the obligatory putting out to tender of schoolbooks. Euro-MP Erik Meijer wants to know what Brussels is going to do to lighten this administrative and legal burden on schools.

Publishers' incomes

Socialist Party MP and education spokesman Jasper van Dijk this week brought to the government's attention once again the problem of the costs associated with the compulsory Europe-wide tender for the buying in of schoolbooks. The obligation comes from the fact that any public purchase above a certain value must be advertised in all 27 member states, and suppliers in those states given the opportunity to tender for the contract. The EU is therefore demanding that all publishers of schoolbooks throughout the Union be given an equal chance to fill orders, but this is imposing an enormous administrative burden on schools. Publishers, however, are primarily concerned with their own incomes. If they find that the required procedure has not been properly adhered to, they go straight to the courts. For schools, this means that things are going from bad to worse. The Secretary of State for Education will have to find at least €45 million to pay the schools' legal costs, money that must be taken from the education budget.

Free schoolbooks

Erik Meijer has already raised the matter on a number of occasions in Brussels and now wants the European Commission to tell him whether other member states are experiencing similar problems, how to deal with legalistic sabotage by publishing firms who feel themselves to have been placed at a disadvantage and how the Commission intends to support the Netherlands in its attempts to make schoolbooks available free of charge. "And I also want to know whether the Commission is prepared to drop compulsory tendering, raise the threshold above which compulsory tendering becomes applicable by a sizeable sum or find some other way of preventing publishers from putting obstacles in the way of lower book prices," Meijer adds.

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