Public education breathes through devices in Brazil. With government neglect, education suffers without funding and without foresight of investment. According to the author’s research Institute for Socioeconomic Studies (INESC), the budget for education has decreased more than four times in three years. Even with the pandemic, in which many students, teachers and the entire school community suffered from a lack of infrastructure, things did not improve.
Since the first General Balance of the Union budget, Inesc has been condemning the insufficient financing of education, and 2021 was no different. The financial performance of the education function, between 2019 and 2021, fell by R$ 8 billion in real terms. The amount approved for 2021 was about R$ 3 billion higher than in 2020, however, the financial execution was lower. Since it is the responsibility of the federal government, university education is the most affected.
The study indicates a general dismantling of the country’s social policy, such as health, promoting racial equality, environmental policy, housing, among others, along with education. The document also proposes recommendations to change reality, such as abolishing the spending ceiling and revising fiscal rules, expanding employment and income generation policies, abolishing the secret budget and limiting rapporteur amendments, ensuring transparency and controlling interest rate shocks, less recessionary monetary contraction.
A report from the National Confederation of Education Workers (CNTE) spoke to Cleo Manhas, political advisor at Inesco, who stresses that budget execution is far below the approved and released funds and that a new government is needed to continue education to expand funding to improve infrastructure . Watch the full interview:
CNTE: The financial performance of the educational function, between 2019 and 2021, fell by R$ 8 billion in real terms. That is, funds were approved that were not used. What was there? Why was this budget not used?
Cleo Manhas: In general, the approved amount is often higher than the financial execution, but in Bolsonaro’s government this often happened and the executed amount was always much less than what was approved or approved. This also has to do with the spending cap, because if you approve and then cut, you migrate to other areas that you think are priorities. And, the fact is that we have, during the three years of Bolsonaro’s government, this drop of R$ 8 billion in the execution of the educational function, which has fallen hard in all areas, but with great strength in higher education, since the federal government is responsible for this phase of teaching .
CNTE: What are the effects of these cuts on the National Education Plan (NEP)?
Cleo Manhas: What we see in the evaluations that the National Campaign for the Right to Education has conducted on the execution and achievement of the goals is that we are far behind and this PNE will probably continue to be trashed. What we notice is that instead of increasing funding relative to GDP, funding is falling, mostly in the federal government, but not only. We did a study on the state budget and we also have a decline in secondary education. So it is certain that we will not be able to achieve the planned funds, on the contrary. Unless we respect, we will backslide.
CNTE: In a pandemic, a period in which classrooms were closed, education needed resources to adapt to distance learning. Did the budget approved by Congress in the year before the pandemic have resources that schools could use to make these adjustments? Could the government have urgently increased this investment?
Cleo Manhas: In the worst year of the pandemic, which was 2021, there was no differentiated contribution to improving school infrastructure. We noticed that the schools got mostly faucets at the entrances and disinfection mats, which is of no use, because the classrooms are still overcrowded and poorly ventilated. Funds for improving school infrastructure in the federal budget have also been significantly reduced. And they could have provided new funding for education, as they did in health and other priority areas, but that didn’t happen. All teachers and students had to migrate to digital platforms, without additional support, and teachers often had to pay for online resources, equipment, and even deal with the difficulties of operating this equipment out of their own pockets.
CNTE: About R$ 6.4 billion less than the available funds was spent on the National Fund for the Development of Education (FNDE). What is the impact of this cut?
Cleo Manhas: When there are cuts in the FNDE, which funds programs such as Dinheiro Direto na Escola, which was one of the few resources the school had to improve its infrastructure, National School Transport, school meals, textbooks, among other extremely important programs, there is a general cut in basic education in all states. The National Congress proposed in the Budget Guidelines Act (LDO) an actual adjustment to PNAE, which is the National School Feeding Program, and the federal government vetoed it. The resource has been the same for a long time, and with a significant increase in the amount of food, the number of hungry and insecure people only increases.
CNTE: What are the expectations and responsibility of the new government, which may come, in terms of education?
Cleo Manhas: It is expected that it will be really new, that we will be able to remove this deviation from the government and that we will continue with the education policy, the expansion of funding, the improvement of infrastructure, that we will take into account the cost of the quality of students for the calculation of funding and for the necessary inputs for schools and universities to receive their students and all stages of education, from kindergarten to higher education. And we hope that there is a priority for the right to education and building quality education for everyone.
CNTE: What are the challenges for education workers in the coming years?
Cleo Manhas: The challenge for education workers is enormous, as there has been a major setback during the two years of the pandemic and the collapse of the education budget in the years of the Bolsonaro government. There have been significant budget cuts for all levels of education, especially for higher education. In a study carried out by Inesc, we show that universities lose funding year after year, and this puts a heavy burden on the faculties, especially because professors are the ones on the front line, facing all the difficulties and receiving all the feedback from students. The challenge is very big and we have to keep an eye on it and exercise social control over what is coming.