Education Financing Advocacy: best practices from Latin America and the Caribbean

In the third edition of a series of publications entitled “Civil society advocacy for the human right to education: stories and lessons learned from Latin America and the Caribbean” the Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE) presents the work done by its members in advocating for the right to education. The below extracts focus specifically on stories and lessons learnt in education financing advocacy.

 Argentina

At the end of 2015, Mauricio Macri assumed the presidency of Argentina, promoting changes in education policy in line with the implementation of a socio-economic agenda of fiscal adjustment, which has had negative impacts on the living conditions of the population. The loss of the purchasing power of the most vulnerable sectors and the annual inflation rate of 23.5% aggravated the national context, affecting the educational trajectories of children and adolescents.

With a view to counteracting the perspective defended by the government, presenting other information and interpretations on the economic and educational model that has been implemented in the country, the Argentinian Campaign for the Right to Education (CADE) developed, in July 2017, in partnership with the academy and teacher unions, the report “The right to education in Argentina: Where are current education policies going?”.

The report shows that public funds allocated to education as part of the 2017 national budget represented a 13% loss in participation compared to the 2016 budget. This meant a devaluation of teachers’ salaries, which remained on 16% below inflation in 2017. In addition, a cut in resources for socio-educational programs, school infrastructure, cultural activities and computerisation of educational centres was identified, while the government went on to spend more on the payment of the public debt than with education. For each peso invested in education in 2017, 1.55 peso was spent with the creditors of the State.

Once this first analysis was completed, CADE identified the need to start the production of a second document, in which proposals were forumated to respond to the challenges and setbacks pointed out in the first report. Thus, in May 2018, the Campaign published the document “Contributions to Educational Public Policies”, which proposes the creation of a new National Educational Financing Law, which guarantees sufficient and adequate resources to provide inclusive and quality education with well-defined goals and deadlines. In addition, it points out the need to guarantee investment for this field as a social and political priority, for the long-term support of the whole education system.

Brazil

 In December 2016, the constitutional amendment 95 (Emenda Constitucional 95 – EC95) was approved by the National Congress and instituted a new tax regime in the country, freezing the minimum allocation of resources for education guaranteed by the Federal Constitution for the next 20 years. The amendment determines that the maximum value for public spending on education, health and social assistance should be conditional on the value assigned the previous year, corrected only for annual inflation. The National Campaign for the Right to Education of Brazil (CNDE), denounced the situation to the UN and the Organization of American States (OAS).

The new economic regime implies impeding the fulfillment of the goals of the National Education Plan (PNE) 2014-2024, such as which include: expansion of enrollment and progressive extension of the compulsory nature of basic education, reduction of illiteracy, improvement of educational quality, teacher training and educational financing. The CNDE has promoted research, training, advocacy, communication, mobilisation and exchange of learning actions, to guarantee fair financing for the right to education. Particularly, it took part in the discussions about the conception of a new Fund for Maintenance and Development of Basic Education and Education Professionals in the National Congress, influencing the implementation of Costo Alumno Calidad (CAQ) y del Costo Alumno Calidad Inicial (CAQi). These mechanisms created by CNDE were included in the National Education Plan and establish parameters for public spending that guarantee the right to free, quality, public education for all.

In such a regressive scenario for educational financing, the PNE completes its fifth year of non-compliance. The National Campaign for the Right to Education has monitored the negative effects of these fiscal and economic adjustment policies for national education and the PNE, based on the development of research that analises economic policies with emphasis on their impact on social policies. The Campaign also joined a nationwide social mobilisation against budget cuts in social rights, called “Direitos valem mais”.

Colombia

In 2017, the Colombian Coalition for the Right to Education (CCDE) discussed with other social organisations, unions and student movements the importance of financing instruments for education for the different departments and municipalities of the country.

In September of that year, CCDE organised an event at the Congress of the Republic, convened by the parliamentarian Senén Niño, in alliance with the Broad Front for Education, Rights and Peace. An event was also organised at the National Pedagogical University, in Bogotá, which convened more than 500 people, including students, teachers and activists. These two meetings addressed the challenges related to the definancing of Colombian public education at all levels, as well as proposals for a constitutional reform that guarantees greater distribution of resources to the territories, so that they can be invested in education, health, and basic sanitation. Under the motto “Education is mobilised against the budget cut!”, in October and November 2017, different activities were carried out to highlight the importance of guaranteeing adequate and sufficient financing for education in all its stages.

During 2018 and 2019, in the framework of an agreement between students, teachers and the national government for greater financing of public university education, the CCDE continued to advocate for the allocation of more resources for the right to education and followed up on commitments, in dialogue and partnership with students and teachers in the country.

El Salvador

In 2014, in the context of presidential elections and with a view to exert influence on the candidates’ plans and proposals, RESALDE developed and launched a study called “Education Financing in El Salvador”. The research data revealed the need to increase public investment in education across the country to obtain adequate and sufficient funding. Based on these findings, the network developed the “6% yes, for education” campaign demanding the investment of at least 6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in education, to universalize education from early childhood to tertiary education.

RESALDE reached out decision-makers, mayors, the Ministry of Education and each deputy of the National Legislative Assembly, to advocate for the prioritization of education in budgets and policies. The network had conversations, particularly with members of the Commission of Education and Culture of the Legislative Assembly, which strongly supported the campaign, and this led to the creation and proposal of a preliminary draft of a bill, in partnership with civil society, for a special act on education financing.

For RESALDE, there are challenges ahead: to maintain dialogue with the national authorities elected in the last presidential elections in February 2019, and to move the conversations forward with the Treasury Department, to get their endorsement for the submission of a preliminary draft of a bill on education financing, to be voted in Plenary Session of the Legislative Assembly.

Haiti

Influence on public opinion and establishing relations with members of Parliament were the strategies adopted by Regroupement Education pour Toutes et Tous (REPT) from Haiti, to confront exorbitant school fees charged by the private sector in the country, where more than 80% of schools are private. Pressure against the regulation of these fees was so strong that, although an act was passed in 2009, it was published only eight years later. Two lessons were learned from this persistent advocacy action: the importance of this act had to be kept on the public agenda throughout this period and the demand to publish it had to come from the grassroots.

In the context of the latest edition of the Global Action Week for Education GAWE 2019, REPT emphasised the need for accessible and inclusive school infrastructure and materials that consider people with disabilities, as well as teacher training for inclusion, also considering teachers with disabilities. Likewise, the coalition called for adequate and sufficient financing to guarantee the right to free, inclusive and quality education, through the implementation of the National Education Fund (FNE).

Dominican Republic

In 2017, in the context of the regional mobilization “Fund what is fair!”, Foro Socioeducativo (FSE) and other social organisations demanded in a press conference and with protests in front of the National Congress to be heard and have space to participate in the debate of the Budget Law 2018. Also, on that occasion, FSE and Oxfam organised two conversations, with the theme “Beyond 4%: sufficiency and quality of spending on pre-university education”, where they presented the document “Notes on requirements and challenges to finance public education in the Dominican Republic ”.

In the context of GAWE 2018, the FSE organised a meeting to discuss the progress and challenges four years after the signing of the National Pact for Educational Reform. In December of that same year, the Forum – in alliance with the InteRed Foundation – presented the Bulletin Number 20 of the Observatory of the Budget on Education, with emphasis on the analysis of “Decentralization and transfers of resources to the Boards of Educational Centers“.

In the 2015-2019 period, FSE continued to promote activities to monitor the quality of spending on Dominican education, through its Education Budget Observatory.

CLADE: Fund what is fair!

CLADE, together with its members, organised a regional mobilisation under the slogan “Fund what is fair! For free and public education for all”. The initiative was launched in September 2017, within the scope of the first Latin American Action Week for the Right to Education, back to back with the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly. The actions continued during 2018 and 2019.

The purpose of the “Fund what is fair!” initiative is to put pressure on governments in the region to comply with international agreements made in terms of financing the realisation of SDG 4, giving priority to the effective use of resources to guarantee free, public, quality education for all. The campaign also seeks to raise the awareness of members of the education community and society in general, on the need to strengthen public education systems and to have a fair and equitable tax and fiscal system to secure sustainable resources for education.

CLADE also warned about education budget regressions observed in different countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). In this context, the “Monitoring System of Financing the Human Right to Education in Latin America and the Caribbean” was launched. It is a virtual platform that collects data on public financing for education in 20 countries of the region, for the 1998-2016 period.

The Fund what is fair! campaign adopted, for its mobilization and advocacy actions, the principles of the 4 S developed by GCE:

  • Size – Increase the size of education budget overall;
  • Share – Increase the GDP percentage and the share of the national budget spent on education;
  • Sensitivity – Sensitivity of education spending, giving priority to bridging social gaps and the rights of the most disadvantaged groups;
  • Scrutiny – Scrutiny/social participation in decision-making and follow-up of the education budget.


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