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Politics The Hague yearns for more control over education

A large part of the House of Representatives wants more control over education quickly in order to tackle the problems better, as it turned out during the discussion of the education budget. The decentralized system and the unbridled lump sum are no longer sacred cows.

Most media attention around the budget debate went to mobile phones. The CDA hijacked the spotlight even before the debate started, via the breakfast news. There, MP René Peters made a warm plea for a legal ban on mobile phones in the classroom. A remarkable proposal from a political party that traditionally is very cautious about government interference in schools, as a number of other parties noted.

The mobile phones earned the CDA a lot of attention in newspaper columns, but other subjects predominated in the debate itself. These had a common denominator: a large part of the House of Representatives wants more control over education. This need also exists within the cabinet. Unorthodox measures to tackle the teacher shortage and other major problems in education, education ministers Dennis Wiersma and Robbert Dijkgraaf already promised in the text of the education budget. The decentralized education system and a comprehensive lump sum are no longer sacred cows.


During the debate, D66 came up with the proposal to bring the minister back to the table as employer in the collective labor agreement negotiations in primary and secondary education. “I think we have come a long way from focusing on our objectives,” said D66 Member of Parliament Paul van Meenen during his eleventh and final education budget – he will be the leader of the Senate in next year's elections. “We give a bag of money and we hope for the best. I think that as a government we should take more control of the very big problems. Think, for example, of the teacher shortage, the issue of temporary and permanent appointments, the deployment of resources, and easing the workload. Then we better sit directly at the table.”

“I think that as a government we should take more control of the very big problems”

The plea is in line with the wish expressed by the education unions last September brought out to negotiate directly with the minister on a joint cao po and vo from now on. Last spring, the social partners spoke in the Education agreement to carry out an 'exploration' into concluding a single collective labor agreement for primary education, including secondary special education and the administrators. And it also bears the signature of Minister of Education Dennis Wiersma.


That is why the minister wants to wait for the results at the end of this year and was not tempted to take sides. “I also feel responsible that we can all go through one door together, because it is important that we do that right now.” Wiersma advised against the D66 motion - which would most likely get a majority - but asked to keep it on hand because it "gives a very strong signal to the parties that are now exploring this together".

Coalition parties like to boast that a lot of extra money is going to education. But the huge sums will not solve the problems if they end up in the wrong place, warn critics. There is little insight into the proceeds of the resources, concluded the Court of Audit as well. Wiersma is aware of this and notices that there is 'a pinch somewhere in the current governance philosophy'. A study is currently underway into strengthening the management of educational quality, to ensure that the money ends up in the classroom as much as possible. The results will be released next spring.


“We don't think an automatic lump sum is a wise idea. We also think that a subsidy scheme is not a wise idea every time. Something has to come in between,” says Wiersma, referring to the earmarking of money for specific purposes. “We even say: we want to see if it would be possible to link part of the lump sum to basic skills in an x ​​number of years.”

The minister's patience is already running out on some points, as is apparent from the 71-page answers to all budget questions. Wiersma is tired of partnerships for appropriate education wasting their piggy banks to slow phasing out and alludes to cutting them on the government grant.

He is also dissatisfied with the excessive reserves of school boards. Two years ago, so-calledsignaling values' introduced to be able to address boards, but in his view that has not yielded enough. That is why there must be a bill next year that makes intervention possible. Boards must, incidentally, be given enough time to be able to spend meaningfully on one-off extra income, such as from the National Education Programme. That news, in contrast to the CDA mobile phones, has so far remained unexposed.

About sixty motions will be voted on Tuesday afternoon. Amendments and the budget itself will be discussed on 8 December. Read also: House of Representatives: targets for more permanent contracts

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