FF education Bill a 'populist stunt', says Government

The Government has rejected as a “populist stunt” a Bill to prevent the Minister for Education making policy or budgetary decisions…

The Government has rejected as a “populist stunt” a Bill to prevent the Minister for Education making policy or budgetary decisions without first doing an impact assessment on their effects.

The Fianna Fáil Education (Resources Allocation) Bill provides for an education impact study to be published before the budget each year and includes an appeals process for schools that feel decisions have a disproportionate effect on them.

Minister of State for Education Ciarán Cannon said the Bill involved “parish-pump-type” politics to help schools avoid losing any resources.

Mr Cannon, who has responsibility for training and skills, asked “what impact analyses were carried out before Fianna Fáil ran the Irish economy off the edge of a cliff”. The Minister for Education had been clear that funding for all public services had to reflect Ireland’s budgetary programme.

The Minister said the Government “has protected education as much as it can” and far bigger cuts in funding and staff were being made in other sectors. “However, there are limits to the level of expenditure on education and the number of teaching posts we can afford.”

Fianna Fáil education spokesman Charlie McConalogue agreed it was a failing that impact assessments were absent in the past but he dismissed claims the Bill involved “parish-pump politics” and said it “aims to protect education at all levels”.

Mr McConalogue, who introduced the legislation, said the Bill was a response to a series of education budget cuts by the Government where the Minister rowed back and admitted mistakes were made “and that the full impact of the measures undertaken was not fully appreciated at the time”, including the cuts to Deis or disadvantaged schools.

He also called for a reversal in the decision to increase the pupil-teacher ratio in colleges of further education and said an impact assessment on those cuts was being done only after the decision had been made.

He said third-level institutions were dropping out of the top 100 education institutions globally, “due to funding to a large extent”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is a parliamentary reporter with The Irish Times