Changes in the state budget suggest slight increase in teachers’ salaries next to decentralization of certain functions.
Kyiv, October 12, 2016. The key innovation in the financing secondary education in 2017 is that the Ministry of Education of Ukraine jointly with the Ministry of Finance of Ukraine will allocate only the educational subvention and the powers for maintenance of schools – payment for utilities, repairs, and distribution of technical staff salaries – will go to the grounds. “The educational subvention should cover only the educational component, and maintenance of schools should be the responsibility of local authorities. The educational subvention also covers school staff salaries and textbooks. I hope that there will be money for equipment and teacher training within central programs – we are still discussing an interest,” explained Pavlo Khobzey, Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, at a discussion held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
Teachers’ salaries will increase and state budget will finance vocational training
Among some changes – teachers’ salaries will increase by 33 per cent. “We understand that this step is insufficient and it does neither significantly change the situation on the labor market, nor encourages teachers to work in schools, but if teachers move two categories up the tariff grid, this will restore justice,” noted Pavlo Khobzey. According to him, vocational education will be financed as secondary education this year. The state budget allocates UAH 1.6 billion for them. Last year, local budgets financed them from their own revenues. The state budget also finances institutions of I-II accreditation levels this year. Money for books is laid in the budget.
Inflation. Volodymyr Bakhrushyn, senior expert of “Education” group at Reanimation Package of Reforms, noted that the positive effect of the increase in wages can be offset. “The declared figures are less than the inflation rate which is forecast for this year,” he explained.
Instability in the reform period. According to Volodymyr Bakhrushyn, changing the system of secondary education can be accompanied by asynchronous work of the authorities at various levels, and as a result, a variety of problems. “We are introducing certain equalizers, particularly in the law on education, which can already show positive results. But, nevertheless, this restructuring will create many problems: there will be a time when someone is not responsible for something anymore, and someone else is not responsible yet,” he noted.
Not all local budgets have enough money. Not all local governments will be able to fulfill their new duties. If in big cities the revenues of local governments increased significantly due to decentralization and they are able to meet these needs, small towns may face a shortage of funds. To prevent such difficulties, “equalization fund” is created. “For regions and districts, we have provided an additional 14.9 billion subsidy for the competencies that we transfer to the grounds. This does not fully satisfy the needs, but we understand that we cannot pass 2017 without these funds. This is a forced temporary measure,” explained Sergiy Marchenko, Deputy Minister of Finances of Ukraine. According to him, the creation of communities will gradually solve the problem.
Subventions for 2017 may not correspond to real needs. Yegor Stadnyi, executive director at CEDOS think-tank, pointed out that subventions for 2017 were calculated on the basis of 2015 data, without taking into account migration turbulence: it can lead to significant discrepancies between expectations and actual situation.
Local authorities has no experience in funding schools. The lack of experience and understanding of the Ministry’s strategy may result in unpreparedness of local authorities to fulfill powers conferred on them from the center, believes Yegor Stadnyi. To solve the problem, it would be appropriate to establish the systemic communication with educators-managers at the local level. “We lack a long-term plan that was in many countries which optimized their system. It would be appropriate to establish a central office of this long-term reform and counseling centers that would advise the local authorities on how to communicate, to properly discharge personnel, etc.,” noted the expert.
Model of funds allocation for 2017 is a one-time solution, and then the medium-term planning will follow
The Deputy Ministers and experts stressed that this allocation of funds is only a one-time solution specifically for 2017, in which minimization of risks is a priority. The more significant changes have not been provided for lack of time. However, noted Sergiy Marchenko, if someone proposes better calculations, the Ministry of Finance is ready to consider them.
The task for the coming years is the transition to the medium-term budget planning. “We, as the Ministry of Finance, will do everything possible to introduce the medium-term planning elements in the nearest future,” noted the Deputy Minister of Finance. Pavlo Khobzey added that as an option, the Ministry of Education is considering the introduction of funding for one student or for the average regulatory class occupancy.
Strategic priorities for secondary education are optimization of the system, increased quality of services and enhancement of the prestige of teaching profession
Both the deputy ministers and community experts expressed this view unanimously. Yegor Stadnyi emphasized that this optimization must be specified in the long-term development plan. The example of other countries has shown that only long-term adherence to a particular line makes it possible to achieve the real results. A typical problem of Ukraine is that the political line of the government changes with every change of government, negating all previous achievements.
Optimization of the network of institutions should include the development of supportive schools and establishment of profession-oriented high school. The success of the idea of supportive schools largely depends on the success of the administrative reform – the creation of capable local communities, and on how teachers and parents in small settlements will understand the essence of innovation. Today, local people often oppose the reform. “Choosing between security and self-realization of a child, parents often chose security – “let it be a bad school, but in my village,” because transportation is risky. It is important to explain to them that children need a good start and appropriate education to become engaged in self-realization and then to be competitive in the labor market,” stressed Pavlo Khobzey.
In addition to optimization, the priority is also to enhance the teaching profession prestige. “The government’s task is to create a systemic motivation through wages, professional training, involvement of young professionals,” noted Sergiy Marchenko.