Sinn Féin education spokesperson, Jonathan O’Brien, TD, has expressed alarm at weekend reports of an additional €13 million in cuts to be added to the €77 million already planned for the education budget.
Deputy O’Brien responded following an admission by education minister, Ruairí Quinn TD, that his department needs to find €90m in savings next year because of extra pay-offs to retiring teachers.
“There is mounting concern that this revised upward figure,” he said, “will result in additional cuts to frontline education services in a budget that has already been stretched to breaking point.
“It seems that a serious miscalculation in the department’s estimates means there is going to be more hardship for teachers and school children.
“The minister has already stated that the Croke Park agreement prevents him from touching 80% of his department’s budget and it is an issue that he and his government colleagues must address.
“There are serious anomalies within the Department’s pay structures that are exacerbated by the protection of the more highly paid Croke Park Agreement. This is in sharp contrast to the plight of newly-qualified teachers whose wages and allowances have been cut significantly since 2011.
“As we approach December’s budget, stakeholders throughout the education sector have made clear that any additional cuts to the education budget will make it impossible to maintain the adequate delivery of the school curriculum. However, despite these warnings, I believe the minister will continue to target important services and this is likely to include an increase in the pupil teacher ratios.
“Sinn Féin’s alternative budget has put forward costed proposals that show there are other alternatives to the government’s slash and burn policies.
“To do so will further compound the massive difficulties facing teachers in the classroom and,” concluded Deputy O’Brien, “our children’s education will undoubtedly suffer greatly.”