New savings measures in the educational system in Iceland could lead to the closing of elementary schools with few students, according to chairman of the Association of Local Authorities in Iceland, Halldór Halldórsson.
From the elementary school in Árneshreppur in the Strandir region of the West Fjords, which only has three students. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
The local authorities presented this idea to Minister of Education Katrín Jakobsdóttir yesterday, which is their final attempt to achieve unitary savings measures. Teachers have criticized it harshly, Fréttabladid reports.
“I can’t believe that the education minister will even consider following this idea. It is horrendously stupid,” commented Eiríkur Jónsson, chairman of the Icelandic Teachers’ Union, pointing out that such measures have been taken before, which only resulted in a long period of strikes and uncertainty.
In 2008 the operating cost of elementary schools for the local authorities amounted to ISK 52 billion (USD 410 million, EUR 280 million), which is 40 to 60 percent of their expenses.
Many local authorities are now facing a serious recession in revenue of as much as ISK 10 billion (USD 80 million, EUR 50 million), and the local authorities and the Ministry of Education are therefore trying to find a solution to this imminent problem.
The demand for rationalization is ISK 3.5 billion (USD 28 million, EUR 19 million) in each of the next two school years.
The local authorities have presented three ideas to meet the cutback: the aforementioned idea of closing schools, shortening the weekly teaching by three to five hours and shortening the school year from 180 to 170 days.
According to Fréttabladid’s sources, shortening the school year is not an option due to the opposition of teachers, so shortening the weekly hours of teaching is more likely.
Halldórsson said if none of their proposals for unitary savings measures will be approved, each of the local authorities will have to face their financial problems on their own.
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