On the eve of the summer recess the House of Representatives took a decision on a number of issues. The 149 million euro cut in the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science budget has been scrapped, more money is to be made available for teacher scholarships, and face-to-face teaching will remain the norm.
A majority of Members of Parliament yesterday supported an amendment tabled by D66 to ensure that the coronavirus support measures for students are not granted at the expense of vocational and higher education. Only VVD, CDA and PVV voted against.
The Cabinet has allocated 8.5 billion euros in coronavirus support for the education sector in the next 2.5 years. However, the costs of extending student financing and free travel entitlements will have to be dealt with after those 2.5 years. It emerged from the Spring Memorandum that the Cabinet has therefore ‘parked’ a cut of 149 million euros in the education budget.
In the opinion of Education Minister Van Engelshoven nobody intended to actually make cuts in vocational and higher education, and the ‘technical journal entry’ in the education budget would have been fixed during the process of forming the new government. But the educational institutions and some of the Members of Parliament were not convinced, hence the D66 amendment which has now been adopted.
Yesterday the House of Representatives also expressed support for teachers who want to continue their own education, a master’s degree for example. For the last few years they have been able to pay for their tuition fees, learning materials and travel expenses through a ‘teacher scholarship’.
The only problem was that since last summer the Cabinet has had insufficient money to fund these scholarships. The Ministry of Education announced last week, to the fury of the trade unions and the left-wing opposition, that the applications of more than 1,200 teachers for the upcoming academic year had been rejected.
The PvdA came up with an idea in that regard. At the Ministry of Economic Affairs there was still money on the table for the ‘job-related investment discount’ for businesses. That scheme was scrapped at the beginning of this year, but 60.3 million euros had already been reserved for its implementation. Use that money for teacher scholarships, suggested PvdA MP Henk Nijboer.
The House of Representatives thought that was a good idea too, adopting his amendment. The money will be made available for teacher scholarships until the end of 2024; 17.1 million euros are to be made available immediately for 2021. The decision was not unanimous, however: of the ruling parties D66 and ChristenUnie voted in favour of the amendment and VVD and CDA voted against it.
Another key issue is online teaching. Last week the House of Representatives was worried that, for financial reasons, some institutions would continue offering students online study groups and lectures even after the coronavirus crisis.
Yesterday Member of Parliament Peter Kwint (SP) got enough votes for his motion, which he tabled with the support of D66, PvdD and Volt. This motion calls on the Cabinet to make it clear to those institutions that face-to-face teaching is the norm and that remote teaching is to be used only very occasionally and for compelling reasons. And even then, only with the agreement of students and teachers. VVD, CDA and ChristenUnie voted against the motion.