Norwegian government reduces cuts for Christian schools after mistake
The Norwegian Education Minister withdraws the cuts in the grants for free schools. She calls for a review after it was discovered that the schools were not informed correctly. But private schools are not reassured.
Even though the government still plans to revise the subsidy budget for schools, it will reconsider the grant scheme of subsidies to private schools. That was announced by the Education Minister, Kari Nessa Nordtun, in a press release on Wednesday. The decision came just before a protest from private schools against the mistakes made by the government in calculating the grants started.
The Education Minister emphasised the importance of "a fair funding system for private schools". She argued that it is not right if combined primary and secondary schools receive double the amount of schools that offer either primary or secondary education.
Therefore, the government will establish a working group in which the private schools are also represented. This group will assess the need for change in the grant model and whether "there are special conditions at different types of private primary schools that affect costs in a different way than public schools, such as class sizes or competence requirements", the press release states.
In the previous proposal, private schools would lose millions of euros in state support. Now, the Education Minister promises that this budget will be reassessed in the revised national budget in spring 2024. It is most likely that the cuts will be smaller in the new budget, the government expects.
The proposed cut of 51 million NOK (4.2 million euros) for next year will also be removed, Vart Land writes. There will be compensation for the cut in next year's budget.
Nevertheless, private schools and opposition parties are not reassured that the cuts will be completely removed from the government's agenda.
Conservative MP Margret Hagerup says it is good that the government has entered the dialogue with private schools but emphasises that she "does not know what is coming." She worries especially about the phrase in the press release of the government that reads that combined schools have received a double subsidy and that this was not intended.
Independent school organisations are not rejoicing about the developments yet either. "For us, it is a bit twofold", Ivar Smit says. He is the head of the Steinerskoleforbundet, an association of private schools. On the one hand, Smit is happy that there is dialogue between private schools and the government, but on the other hand, he does not feel assured as the government continues to implement a new financing model.
Helge Vatne, the acting general secretary of the Association of Christian Free Schools, agrees to that. "It is not certain that the schools have received double the small business subsidy that they should not have. That, too, needs to be investigated", he says. "If this is not possible, then we have a problem."
The cuts in grants for private schools were announced on October 6. The government wanted to save 51.5 million NOK on private schools, arguing that schools which offered combined primary and secondary education had received too much in previous years.
The announcement caused much upheaval in the country, and private schools started a petition against the plans. It received tens of thousands of signatures.
A few weeks later, it turned out that the government had informed the schools incorrectly about the upcoming change. Therefore, the matter was put on the agenda again.
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