Gas prices hurt schools
Sky-high gas prices are putting schools in a bind. For example, the Ons Middelbaar Onderwijs (OMO) association, with more than sixty secondary schools, has to pay twelve times as much for energy. The PO council is also receiving more and more signals from primary school administrators.
“One school group is in acute financial distress,” said spokesperson Merel Doeser of the PO council. “The reports range from schools paying 110 percent more to 800 percent.”
OMO director Yvonne Kops says that the annual costs for her organization will be twelve times higher. It must enter not 1,2 million but about 15 million euros for energy in the annual accounts. “That is a huge amount of money that does not go to education,” says Kops. OMO will draw on the reserves. “We are a healthy organization, but we cannot just absorb this.”
'It's a huge amount of money that doesn't go to education'
OMO wants to discuss the short and long term consequences of the high prices with Minister Rob Jetten (D66) for Climate and Energy. A letter has already gone out. The huge increase is a result of the sanctions against Russia because of the war in Ukraine. Energy contracts with Gazprom had to be terminated by the minister before October 10. “We have canceled the contract prematurely. It ran until 2025," said spokesman for the board of directors Marit Goosen. “Normally you take your time, you can put it out to tender and see who is the best party.” According to Goosen, this is not at the expense of the education budget. “We absolutely do not want that. We want to talk to the minister to discuss the consequences of his decision and to look for solutions.”
In the House of Representatives, Jetten recently announced that authorities will be given a postponement until December 31 with the termination of their Gazprom contract. That no longer matters to OMO, because they have complied with the minister's first deadline.
In Purmerend and the surrounding area, gas prices also cause 'headaches' for Astrid Brugman, member of the board of directors of Opspoor with 37 primary schools. Among other things, she is involved in housing and the gas contract expires on December 31. “Concluding a new contract is a challenge. Suppliers do not want to give a fixed daily price, which means that it is not possible to put out to tender. If we cannot conclude a new contract, we are dealing with variable rates.”
Brugman estimates that it will be three to five times as expensive anyway. “It will certainly be a burden on the budget and will be at the expense of money for education if there is no compensation. Because of the lump sum funding (one bag of money for education) there will be a shift and a larger part will go to everything related to housing.”
'It will certainly be a burden on the budget and will come at the expense of money for education if there is no compensation'
Brugman predicts that they will first draw on the reserves. “We want to stay away from the money for, for example, the formation as long as possible, but this has a limit. However, as far as material funding is concerned, the stretch is already over. Material funding has been lagging behind personnel funding for years.”
The example of one of the schools where Opspoor invested in a completely new ventilation system is particularly poignant. Now that it has been installed, grid manager Liander is unable to provide the required large-scale consumption connection for the school group. As a result, the system cannot be put into operation. “That is extra painful, especially now,” Brugman says. “Ventilation is important for the health of our employees and students. As a result, windows have to open again because of corona. It won't cut costs."
The signals from schools that are struggling with high energy prices also reach the school umbrella organizations PO-raad and VO-raad. For example, a school informed the PO council that they will pay 1 million euros extra to their gas bill over the next three months. “There are many concerns,” says Doeser of the PO council. “We have been receiving individual e-mails for several weeks from organizations that are getting into trouble. We know from one school group that there is an acute financial need.” The council also wants to talk to the minister and calls it 'undesirable' that the reserves are called on. “We do not want the money from the National Education Program (NPO) to be spent on an expensive gas bill.”
Schools do receive an automatic price adjustment for material costs every year. The amount of this will be announced on Prinsjesdag, but the PO council thinks this is still the case for a number of school groups not enough is. The umbrella organization of secondary schools previously announced that the minister has not yet come up with compensation for higher energy costs. 'The ministry has indicated this in discussions with the VO Council', the council reports on their website. 'The ministry recognizes the signals, but it has to do with the fact that this is not only an issue in education, but in society as a whole.'
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