Government to completely nationalize public schools

June 14, 2016

Protestors demonstrating against government plans to completely nationalize schools on Saturday.
Protestors demonstrating against government plans to completely nationalize schools on Saturday.

The controversy surrounding the government’s nationalization of public schools seems finally to have come to a head this week amid announcements of the dissolution of Klik (Klebelsberg Institutional Maintenance Center), the state-run institution responsible for the administration of Hungary’s schools. Hints at its dissolution have been coming since March, and it was revealed this week that Klik will indeed be replaced by 59 different bodies.

Dissatisfaction with Klik has been widespread, and a series of protests and even  strikes has taken place since its adoption in 2013. Critics claim it is overcentralized, inefficient and unable to adequately provide for the unique needs of schools. According to 444.hu the organization has accumulated a massive debt (HUF 17 billion, USD 62 million) and has even been sued by the city government of Dombovár for failure to fund the maintenance of school buildings.

Now the solution to these problems plaguing Klik seems to be its atomization into 59 smaller school districts, 9 of which will operate in Budapest. The districts, although smaller, will not enjoy any greater operational autonomy than under Klik, as the new system represents the final step in the total nationalization of the country’s schools. Under Klik, for example, the school facilities still belonged to local governments, and they could largely decide how to use them. Now the state intends to centralize this power by assuming full ownership of the facilities.

However, according to state secretary for higher education László Palkovics, the local governments will have greater influence in the management of schools via opportunities to voice their opinions at councils to be held at district centers. Among possible attendees of these councils are “mayors, university rectors, managers, institutional leaders, social organizations, parents and students, those for whom the school is important.”

Additionally, pay raises may be possible under the new scheme because school directors will be able to determine salaries for teachers based on performance and workload. Congruently, directors would be able to punish teachers who are not meeting  expectations, a right with potentially problematic and political consequences.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the long-anticipated demise of Klik, because the essential structure and operating principles remain unchanged. According to Index.hu, Gödöllő mayor Győrgy Gémesi is against the nationalization because “schools lose their local character and their strength.” Meanwhile the representative body of the Budapest suburb of Budaörs is protesting against the nationalization. Recently elected independent mayor Tamás Wittinghof said the local government doesn’t want to entrust the state with mainentance of the schools because “they can’t guarantee current levels of school supplies to the children.”