The Supreme Court will settle the education row between the Buenos Aires City government and the national government over President Alberto Fernández’s attempt to ban in-person classes at schools in the capital until the end of April.
Argentina’s highest tribunal declared itself “competent” to intervene in the legal dispute between the national government and City Hall, which has arisen after challenges to last week’s presidential decree of necessity and urgency (DNU) that extended the hours of a nationwide curfew and imposed a temporary ban on in-person classes in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area.
The decision means the appeal falls within the Supreme Court’s remit. It also casts doubt over the validity of a ruling on Sunday by a City appeals court that said City Hall had the autonomy to decide whether in-person classes should go ahead.
"In accordance with what was ruled by the Attorney General, this case falls within the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation ... the action filed will be substantiated through the summary process," wrote Supreme Court justices Carlos Rosenkrantz, Juan Carlos Maqueda, Ricardo Lorenzetti and Horacio Rosatti in their ruling. The fifth member of the court, Elena Highton de Nolasco, opted to dissent.
The court said on Monday it had notified the parties of the decision and issued an official letter to the Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero notifying him. The governments were given five days to present its case before the justices. Reports in local outlets said a ruling in the coming days, though there is no set deadline in place for a decision.
Despite the brewing row over in-person classes, schools in the capital did welcome students on Monday, after Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta announced late Sunday he would adhere to the ruling by the Chamber of Appeals in Administrative, Tax and Consumer Relations in Buenos Aires, and keep them open.
However, just two days later, the legal battle was further complicated by a ruling on Tuesday from a federal judge that annulled the City appeals court’s order to authorise in-person classes.
Federal Judge Esteban Furnari decried "the institutional gravity and legal scandal" of the prior court’s decision and asked City Hall to “refrain from applying or executing the measure ordered last weekend,” ruling that a municipal court had no jurisdiction over a national decree and kicking the case to the Supreme Court.
Rodríguez Larreta, in consultation with lawyers representing the City government, eventually decided to ignore the judge’s decision and order schools to open nevertheless, considering that the Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter will be definitive.
Local teachers attached to unions then went on strike in line with the national ban but City Hall reported 94 percent of schools opening.