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Minister to check inclusion in education policy’s financing

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Prague, Dec 18 (CTK) – Robert Plaga, the new Czech education minister whom PM Andrej Babis (both ANO) inaugurated in the post on Monday, said he seeks a financial check of the state’s inclusion in education policy in order to prevent its costs from affecting the planned raising of teachers’ wages, he told journalists.

He criticised the state system of subsidies to private schools, saying the state has its own school capacities.

“One of the first tasks [for me as minister] will be to carry out a financial and matter-of-fact check of the inclusion system. The situation is not good. I would like it [the system] not to have an impact on raising the wages of either teachers or other employees in the school sector,” Plaga said.

The inclusion in education system, introduced by former minister Katerina Valachova (Social Democrats, CSSD) in the previous election term, aims to boost the integration of students with health or social handicaps in mainstream schools and thereby provide equal chances for education to all.

Teachers’ wages increased by 15 percent and other school employees’ by 10 percent as of November. Trade unions demand teachers’ pay to rise to 130 percent of the country’s average pay by 2020.

Plaga, whose jurisdiction also includes sports, said his other priority will be the financing of and support for sports and the establishment of a special agency for sports.

Babis said a new post of a government commissioner should be established to deal with the distribution of state subsidies designated for sports.

In the past election term, a scandal broke out over a suspected misuse of these subsidies by some sport associations’ representatives in cooperation with ministry officials. Criminal proceedings in this respect are underway.

The establishment of a special agency requires a legislative change and it will take another two years at least before it takes over the sports agenda from the ministry, Plaga said.

“As far as the financing of important sports events is concerned, I believe that it must be dealt with on the government level…so that the events themselves are sure of [the state] support several years in advance,” Plaga said.

Babis said Plaga will also have to solve the question of private and church schools’ financing.

“I was assured that the state has sufficient capacities for ensuring pupils’ education,” he said, adding that the Czech Republic is the only country to support private and church schools from state funds, with 6.5 billion crowns a year.

Plaga, who is replacing Stanislav Stech (for the CSSD) as education minister, wants to make personnel changes in the office. “Political” deputy ministers, or those nominated by the previous government parties, Petr Pavlik (CSSD) and Jaroslav Fidrmuc (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL), will leave.

Plaga, who himself used to be a political deputy minister nominated by ANO, wants to abolish the posts of political ministers, Fidrmuc said.

There are still another six deputy education ministers, each responsible for the sector’s individual branches. Plaga was the seventh deputy minister, in charge of universities and research, before becoming minister.

President Milos Zeman appointed Babis’s ANO 15-member minority cabinet on December 13. On the same day, he inaugurated seven new ministers in their posts, and another four on Monday.

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