School Bill

   The Weimar Constitution* embraced an educational com-promise (Articles 146-149 and 174) that provoked conflict for the duration of the Republic. In an effort to assuage anticlericals in the SPD and the DDP, who opposed state aid for parochial schools and viewed religious instruction as a private matter, and members of the Center Party,* who wished such instruction to be the norm, the Constitutional Committee compromised on a system allow-ing for three kinds of primary school (Volksschule): the Simultan- or Einheits-schule (simultaneous or unified school), permitting religious instruction after normal school hours; the Bekenntnisschule (confessional school), allowing re-ligious instruction during normal hours; and the Weltlicheschule (secular school), prohibiting religious instruction. The Simultanschule was made the norm and the other schools the exception (petitions signed by a substantial number of parents were required for exceptions). But the Constitution required enactment of a statute before this system could be instituted. As the Center repeatedly blocked such enactment, the preexisting imperial system remained in effect. Indeed, in 1931 the great majority of Germany's 53,000 schools were confes-sional: 29,020 were Protestant* and 15,256 were Catholic,* while only 8,921 were Simultanschulen (only 295 were secular). Because Catholics and ardent Lutherans judged the Simultanschule a compromise with secularism, an affinity evolved between the Catholic Center Party and a key segment of the largely Protestant DNVP.
   The 1927 School Bill was not the first such measure to reach the Reichstag.* Unsuccessful bills, drafted in 1921 and 1925, allowed for common schools (sim-ilar to Simultanschulen) in which religious education was based on parental petition. But the 1927 measure had greater backing. The founding of Wilhelm Marx's* January 1927 cabinet was contingent upon several Center-DNVP compacts, the most important being introduction of a bill authorizing widespread confessional education. Although the measure risked alienating the DVP, Marx's other coalition partner, it was soon drafted by the Interior Minister, Walter von Keudell* of the DNVP. The bill mandated complete equality among the three types of Volksschule and retention of the status quo in each German state. When it was made public in July 1927, it kindled so much protest from the political Left (including the DVP) that the Reichsrat rejected it on 14 October. The DVP's central committee announced its opposition on 27 November. After three months of debate, the Center's refusal to amend the bill forced the collapse of Marx's coalition; the School Bill died with his cabinet. Significantly, the Center had come to appreciate that while an amended bill might promote the founding of Simultanschulen, retaining the preexisting deadlock ensured a widespread perpetuation of confessional schools.
   REFERENCES:Borg, Old-Prussian Church; Ellen Evans, "Center Wages Kulturpolitik" and German Center Party; Frank Gordon, "German Evangelical Churches"; Samuel and Thomas, Education and Society.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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