“Defunding the faceless and distant KLIK helped downplay the significance of the money shortage. The effects, however, were very evident in the day-to-day operation of Hungarian schools. . . . The number of students enrolled in public education between 2010 and 2014 decreased by 5.33 percent, while the amount of funding between 2009 and 2013 decreased by 30.7 percent per high school student and 12.3 percent for elementary school students.”
Translation of “A huge amount of money was taken away from the children” (“Rengeteg pénzt vettek el a gyerekektől“) by Péter Magyari appearing in daily online 444.hu on February 9th, 2015:
Hundreds of schools and thousands of teachers have joined the campaign against Hungary’s public education system which originally started in Miskolc. There are many grievances, and tens of thousands of parents and students feel the situation in public education has become much worse in recent years.
Hungary’s public education was fundamentally changed in 2010, when, instead of local municipalities looking after the upkeep and operation of elementary schools and high schools, the national government created a state-run agency called KLIK to take over these tasks. KLIK centralized everything ranging from education plans to textbook publishing.
There is an incredibly important factor to keep in mind if one wants to understand why those affected by the changes to public education are so vehement in saying the situation has gotten worse: the state has taken away lots of money.
One of the government’s goals with KLIK could have been that it is much easier to defund a faceless state agency than force budget cuts down the throats of local municipalities. It was much easier to save money on public education than have mayors explain what is happening, thereby exposing them to the risk of having to answer for these problems in the next municipal election.
Defunding the faceless and distant KLIK helped downplay the significance of the money shortage. The effects, however, were very evident in the day-to-day operation of Hungarian schools.
There is far less funding for the children
ELTE education professor and researcher István Nahalka recently published a blog post about the extent of just how much money was taken out of education. The figures he uses are drawn exclusively from the government figures and data published by the Central Statistical Office (KSH).
What is clear from the graphs below is the decrease in current spending in comparison to earlier years. Nahalka also assessed this difference in funding by level of education. In order for the numbers to be comparable, Nahalka adjusted the 2009 figures for inflation.
The results over four years show that:
- HUF 84,721 (USD 300) less was spent per elementary school student;
- HUF 193,850 (USD 700) less was spent per high school student; and,
- HUF 212,130 (USD 760) less was spent per university student.
With such cuts it’s no wonder that everyone affected by the changes feels like the system is rotting.
(There are groups, however, whose per person state-support has continuously grown. For example, soccer fans. According to mfor.hu’s data, the state budget will provide HUF 3.4 million for every soccer fan in 2016. That number was just HUF 2.2 million in 2015 and HUF 1.4 million in 2013).
Fidesz did not start it, but gladly picked up where others left off
Spending on education as a percentage of GDP was highest in 2003. That level has not been reached since and the numbers have continuously plummeted since 2010.
In 2003, 5.7 percent of GDP was spent on education. By 2014, that fell to less than 4 percent. Since 2010, that number has not only decreased in absolute terms, but also as a percentage of GDP.
As a result of the huge cuts to education in Hungary, the country now spends the least amount on education in the region:
No other OECD country has cut as much funding to education in the post-crisis period as Hungary.
This tendency is especially alarming considering the fact that in 2004 only Slovenia was performing better than Hungary.
In this OECD figure, we see that funding for education in Hungary (as a percentage of total public expenditure) between 2008 and 2012 decreased by 25 percent:
Not so fewer children
In theory, one possible reason for making cuts to education could be that there are less children. But as the above statistics show, the amount of funding per student is decreasing, that is, more money is being cut from the system than can be attributable to having fewer students.
The number of students enrolled in public education between 2010 and 2014 decreased by 5.33 percent, while the amount of funding between 2009 and 2013 decreased by 30.7 percent per high school student and 12.3 percent for elementary school students.