"A pittance" - Teachers slam education investment in Budget 2019

The ASTI says the budget has failed to resolve the funding crisis in education

"A pittance" - Teachers slam education investment in Budget 2019

The Minister for Education Richard Bruton at a press briefing on Education after the Budget, 09-10-2018. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Teachers associations have lashed out at the funding set aside for education as part of Budget 2019.

This afternoon, the Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe announced a €10.8bn budget for the Department of Education next year.

He said the allocation marks a 6.7% increase on last year.

He said the increase would see almost 1,300 additional posts in schools in 2019 and will allow for a 5% increase in the standard capitation rate for every student in every school.

This afternoon however, a number of teachers associations warned that the package will do little to benefit struggling schools – and called for funding to be restored to pre-recession levels. 

Breda Lynch, the president of the Association of Secondary teachers in Ireland (ASTI) warned that a recent OECD report puts Ireland joint last of 33 countries when it comes to investment in education as a percentage of GDP.

“The cumulative impact of austerity cutbacks on education and schools has been profound,” she said.

“Budget 2019 does little to reverse swinging cuts implemented during the recession.”

She said the 5% increase in capitation is simply not enough, following an 11% reduction between 2011 and 2015.

“Schools have to operate like charities, constantly fundraising in order to make ends meet,” she said.

“Inadequate funding impacts on all aspects of school life – from heating, furniture and maintenance to essential equipment, field trips and other activities.”

The Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the funding would see staff numbers in Irish schools reach their highest ever level - with 1,300 additional teaching posts, including 950 new Special Needs Assistants.

"Education is key to our ability to adapt successfully during a period of very rapid change and considerable new challenges," he said.

"This Budget is making the investments we need to ensure we equip Irish talent with the capacity to shape their future."

Meanwhile the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) which represents primary school teachers labelled the 5% increase a “pittance.”

It said parents are being forced to contribute “enormous amounts of money to keep schools afloat.”

“This funding model is an insult to the children and tax-paying parents of this country, it turns school principals and teachers into fundraisers,” said the organisation.

“While there is a modest restoration, the Government’s increase in school funding of 5% will have no noticeable impact on the crisis in school funding facing schools around the country.

It said primary schools receive significantly less funding than second and third level institutions, warning that the “funding disparity is grossly unfair and damaging to children’s long-term prospects.”

INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said school teachers and parents have been “let down by this inadequate increase in the capitation grant.”

“Resulting from this decision, teachers will continue to have to fundraise for basic expenditure in schools and parents will still have to dig seep into their pockets to cough up voluntary contributions,” she said.

Minister Donohoe’s insistence on moving forward with the provision of a rainy day fund has also been criticised by students who warned that education needs investment now, “not on some future rainy day."

The Union of Students in Ireland said it made no sense to put money away for some future rainy day when the country as money students struggle to find education in the midst of a housing and homeless crisis.

Meanwhile, the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) said it is “incredible” that the Government is setting money aside for a rainy day “while higher education is drowning in an existential funding crisis that is being ignored.”

IFUT general secretary Joan Donegan said inadequate state funding for third level will “further undermine academic freedom and flexibility at university level” and risks seeing Irish colleges dropping further down the world rankings.

“It is quite staggering that the government has opted to prioritise setting aside such a large portion of ‘historically high levels of Corporation tax’ for a potential future ‘rainy day’ while higher education is drowning in underfunding right now,” she said.