The Spanish Government imposes a €3 billion budget cut in education
The Spanish Minister for Education met with his counterparts from the Autonomous Communities and imposed 6 measures that must be adopted to save €3 billion. The Catalan Minister considers that three of the measures might invade powers managed by the Autonomies, and therefore the Spanish Government might be ruling beyond its jurisdiction. The Catalan Government will study them and does not rule out bringing the Spanish Government to the Constitutional Court. Nonetheless, the Spanish Minister reminded that, before a judge says the contrary, the measures are still obligatory. Besides, the Catalan Minister also emphasised the previous austerity efforts made by the Catalan Government also in Education, and the Spanish Ministry’s “lack of knowledge” about them.
Barcelona (ACN).- The Spanish Government told the Autonomous Communities on Monday how they are supposed to save \u20AC3 billion in Education this year, which is part of the \u20AC10 billion spending reduction announced last week. Healthcare is also part of the plan. The Spanish Minister for Education, José Ignacio Wert, met in Madrid with the Education Ministers from the Autonomies, who are those directly managing education across Spain. Wert imposed six measures that they have to obligatorily implement, otherwise they will not receive the funds transferred by the Spanish Government, which is run by the People\u2019s Party (PP). The 3 Autonomies without a PP Government (Catalonia, the Basque Country and Andalusia) frontally opposed the way the measures have been imposed on an area directly managed by the regional governments. Furthermore, the Catalan Government has already implemented its own austerity measures to reduce public spending in all the areas, including Education. The Catalan Government believes that the Spanish Government might not have the powers to decide 3 of the 6 measures, as the Autonomies have exclusive powers to govern those areas. Furthermore, the Catalan Minister for Education criticised the Spanish Ministry\u2019s lack of dialogue and \u201C a lack of knowledge\u201D of the austerity measures in Education that are in place in Catalonia since last year. Therefore, if the Spanish Government follows its own plan and decides to approve those measures as a decree on Friday, the Catalan Government does not rule out taking them to the Constitutional Court. The Spanish Education Minister challenged the governments that believe the measures invade their control and would take the Spanish Government to court. \u201CThey know the way\u201D, he said. However, he reminded that as they will be approved by decree, if a judge does not state the contrary, the measures will have to be implemented immediately, without waiting for a decision on the matter. Teacher unions criticised the measures as they consider them an \u201Cattack\u201D against public education. Furthermore, they believe the measures will create many staff redundancies, putting 100,000 teachers with temporary contracts out of work.
The Catalan Minister for Education, Irene Rigau, criticised the lack of dialogue and consideration towards the Autonomies that have \u201Calready done their homework\u201D, such as Catalonia. Rigau pointed out that the Catalan Executive had already implemented austerity measures in all governmental areas, including Education, in order to reduce public spending with the aim of reducing the public deficit. She said she was disappointed that there was a general tendency \u201Cto blame\u201D the Autonomies.
First Education, and later Health
The Spanish Government announced at Easter a reduction of \u20AC10 billion in Education and in Healthcare spending. The six measures announced today by Juan Ignacio Wert are meant to reduce spending on Education by \u20AC3 billion in 2012. The Spanish Minister for Health will have a similar meeting with his counterparts to announce how \u20AC7 billion will be saved. However, Education and Healthcare are directly managed by the Autonomies.
3 of the 6 measures might invade Catalonia\u2019s powers
Furthermore, Rigau stated that three of the six measures might invade the Catalan Government\u2019s jurisdiction. \u201CWe will study it\u201D, as \u201Cwe cannot accept that they take away our powers\u201D, she said. \u201CWe will look at which measures fulfil the regulation, which do not do so, and which are already being implemented in Catalonia that might compensate part of the effort, as we understand that if we have already done our homework, now we do not have to add more measures but to show that we are already fighting against the deficit\u201D. Rigau pointed out \u201Ca lack of knowledge\u201D by the Spanish Ministry of Education about the efforts Catalonia had already done to reduce spending in Education.
The Catalan Minister said that the measures directly dealing with the organisation of human resources, namely increasing teaching hours, substituting teachers and forbidding additional salary extras, are the exclusive responsibility of the Autonomies and that the Spanish Government has no jurisdiction.
The 6 announced measures
Four of the six measures imposed by Wert are temporary and the two others permanent. They will be implemented in the entire public school system, as well as in private schools that receive public funds (the majority). The two measures with a greater impact are temporary: increasing the ratio of pupils per classroom by 20% and increasing the teaching hours of teachers. Therefore, in primary schools, the ratio will pass from 25 to 30 pupils per classroom. In secondary school, it will pass from 30 to 36 students per classroom. Teachers will see their teaching hours to raise to 25 per week in primary school and 20 in secondary schools, reducing the time for class preparation, talking with parents, coordinating content, attending training courses, etc.
Furthermore another measure is that the system will not pay for a substitute teacher for the first 10 days of sick leave. This measure will be permanent. This means that when a teacher is ill, the school will have to cover his or her work with the rest of the teachers, without being able to hire a substitute until after the tenth day.
The other permanent measure is that secondary schools will not be obliged to offer at least two study tracks for the last school years, such as the scientific track, the arts track, etc. Now they will only be required to offer one single track, and thus many students will have to move to another education centre to follow their chosen track. The two remaining measures are temporary: teachers will not receive additional salary extras and the new vocational training modules of 2,000 hours will not have to be obligatorily implemented this year.
Unions fear the measures will put 100,000 temporary teachers on the dole
The union Workers Commissions (CCOO) and the teachers union USTEC-STEs criticised the measures and they consider them an \u201Cattack\u201D against public education. They believe the measures will decrease education quality, in particular those raising the ratio of pupils per classroom and increasing teachers\u2019 number of teaching hours. Furthermore, the measure will create many teacher redundancies. CCOO told ACN that \u201C100,000 teachers with temporary contracts\u201D working within the public system will be laid off or will not be hired next year. In addition, \u201Chundreds\u201D of teachers in private schools will also be laid off.