Court rapped over ruling on education budget

THE JAKARTA POST, February 23, 2008

The Constitutional Court has come under fire for a ruling that, critics say, encourages the government not to raise the education budget to levels mandated by the Constitution.

The decision was handed down Wednesday during the final court session reviewing the 2003 law on the national education system.

The court’s ruling obliges the government to include teachers’ salaries in the education budget, when they were previously included in the state budget for civil servants’ wages.

The education budget amounts to Rp 48 trillion (approximately US$5.26 billion) in 2008, or 11.2 percent of the total state budget.

A coalition of education watchdogs slammed the ruling, saying it went against the Constitution’s requirement that 20 percent of the state budget be allocated to education.

It said the verdict would allow the government to use up most or all of the education budget to pay teacher salaries.

“There will be no money left for repairing school buildings, for the nine-year compulsory education program and for school operational funds (BOS),” said Ade Irawan of Indonesia Corruption Watch.

“All costs will be put on the students’ shoulders. We’re entering a very costly education era.”

Ade said the salaries of the country’s 2.7 million teachers could reach up to Rp 55.6 trillion per year.

The amount wasn’t including allowances and salaries for other education workers, such as lecturers, principals and counselors, he said.

“We urge the government not to obey the verdict because it runs substantially counter to the Constitution,” said Emerson Yuntho, also of the ICW.

The coalition said it would immediately challenge the verdict, which was final and binding according to the 2003 law on the Constitutional Court.

The plaintiffs had told the court the 2003 law on national education contravened the Constitution because it excluded the salaries of education workers from the education budget.

They said the law meant increases in the education budget did not improve educator’s pay.

This argument was refuted by the secretary general of the Teacher’s Union in the Jakarta suburb of Tangerang, Agus Supriyadi, who joined the coalition.

“This verdict will not help increase teachers’ salaries. It will instead create a conflict between teachers and students because they will now have to fight each other for bigger portions of the education budget.

“It is then a death for teachers,” he said.

The “death”, Ade said, meant the government was reluctant to increase the education budget to comply with the constitutional mandate.

“This year the government promised the House of Representatives to allocate 16 percent of the state budget for education in order to gradually reach the 20 percent mandated by the Constitution. But in fact, it only set aside 11.2 percent of the state budget,” he said.

Last year the court ruled the government was in breach of the Constitution for not allocating enough of the state budget to education.

The court said the Wednesday verdict would help the government comply with the constitutional mandate.

But the coalition’s Febri Diansyah said the ruling was a “constitutional tactic” to allow the government to comply with the Constitution without having to increase the education budget.(*)

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