The Ministry of Education wanted to dispel schools’ concerns about budget savings, so it held an online meeting with principals on Tuesday morning. But the exact opposite happened.
Minister of Education Mikuláš Bek (STAN) faced sharp criticism, even though only five questions from school representatives were received.
The meeting lasted about an hour and a quarter. For the first 35 minutes, the minister presented all the cost-saving measures that have already met with strong criticism not only from the schools themselves, but also from the regions or the Association of Local Self-Governments.
It is about shortening the tuition that schools have, which is paid for from the budget of the Ministry of Education with the so-called PHmax system. The division of lessons, tandem teaching or support of gifted pupils will thus be limited. But the minister announced to the directors on Tuesday that the restriction will be a little more moderate.
“Today, I will submit proposals to my colleagues in the government that would allow the regulation to be eased a little more, so that the effects will be milder. We are thinking about the 95 percent limit at the moment,” Bek prefaced.
According to the current proposal, the average number of subsidized hours for schools is to be reduced by even more percentage – to the level of 94 percent. However, the adjustment is supposed to affect secondary schools the most, but the minister did not talk about them with the principals today.
He mentioned, however, that they are still trying to find the means to fund non-teaching staff. In the latest draft budget, there are no funds for approximately 17,000 positions of cleaners, janitors, cooks or IT administrators.
The PHmax value represents the maximum weekly number of teaching hours in the scope of the framework educational program financed from the state budget.
Source: Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports
“I will discuss this with my colleagues in the government today, but we are always counting on the fact that we will use the bindingly promised additional funds in the budget to reduce the impact on non-pedagogues so that the unfunded positions are a maximum of eight thousand, which are vacant in the system,” added Bek.
Director: Enjoy the liquidation
The Minister of Education has already announced that the government has promised another four billion crowns from the state budget reserve, which should come to the ministry at the beginning of next year.
“I would like to ask you all one thing. Please take with great sobriety the media headlines as well as the various guaranteed messages circulating on social media. Unfortunately, there are very few journalists who understand school issues, how the Ministry of Education’s budget works and how PHmaxes work,” Bek addressed the director with this request as well.
Concerns of schools
But he did not manage to dispel their fears.
“I have to say that I am literally dismayed, Minister. Don’t be mad at me, but why did you invite us to a political meeting or something you’ve been repeating in the media for two months? After all, it had no value for us. You told us not to believe everything that is written in the newspaper, but you just repeated what was written there,” Roman Ziegler, the principal of the 8th elementary school in Most, read to Bek.
Not only he, but also other directors in their comments during the meeting expressed fundamental disagreement with the fact that the impact of the adjustment of regional education funding should not be fundamental.
By the way, a significant part of the school principals could not get to the meeting online, because the number of participants was limited, which the Ministry of Education did not expect, and the principals later apologized for this, saying that they would send them a recording.
“I’m sorry for the emotions, but what you showed today was just another stone in the mosaic of how you act towards the educational public, and even worse, how you portray education in front of the general public,” Ziegler did not like. “Enjoy the liquidation in full splendor,” he added at the end.
We apologize to the directors who were unable to join today’s call with the Minister. We are resolving the situation with the service provider (Microsoft). The record will be sent to the directors.
— MŠMT (@msmtcr) November 21, 2023
Is it the end of small classes?
Principals of small-class schools also spoke very harshly about how the austerity measures would affect them.
“Say it straight: we don’t want small class schools, we’re closing them in those small communities, we have an idea of what the smallest school is sustainable and let’s go in that direction, but say it straight and don’t do it with these back-and-forths that you lose credit with,” added another principal schools.
Minister of Education Bek denied that there was a motivation behind the austerity measures to cancel small-class schools. “The goal is definitely not the disappearance of small schools in individual locations,” he said. On the other hand, he admits that the debate about the effective size of schools is appropriate.
But small-class schools have reason to be nervous. In the report on the proposal for changes in the funding of teaching, it is written that some schools, which are already operating on an exception basis due to the low number of pupils, may disappear.
However, according to the Czech School Inspectorate, there are about a fifth of such schools in the Czech Republic. The Ministry of Education warns that some complete primary schools can then become only primary schools.
Apel na Beka: