4 July 2017 • HOP, by Hein Cuppen
Teacher salaries: Minister Bussemaker refuses to check the box
The PvdA ministers are only willing to agree to the new state budget if it includes a raise in teacher salaries, said party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher. Minister Bussemaker did not distance herself from this ‘threat’ yesterday.
Asscher made a surprising announcement two weeks ago. If the cabinet formation talks have still not led anywhere by September and the outgoing cabinet must submit a budget, teacher salaries will have to be raised. Otherwise, the PvdA party members will not agree to it.
In a debate on the teacher shortage, the Lower House wanted to know, of course, how Minister of Education Bussemaker felt about this ‘threat’ and whether she would actually refuse to sign the budget. But she avoided the question, claiming that there is sure to be a new cabinet within the next two months that can submit its own budget.
But in the unlikely event that the outgoing cabinet is required to do this, Bussemaker stated that policy decisions will have to be made. ‘And you know what the advice of the PvdA party leader is,’ she said. According to Bussemaker, this advice is in keeping with the PvdA election programme.
CDA MP Michiel Rog counteracted by saying that the elections are now over and that an outgoing cabinet is only expected to keep an eye on the shop. But Bussemaker disagrees. ‘An outgoing cabinet needs to do what is best for the country. Nowhere does it say that their job is to simply keep an eye on the shop. If the cabinet is outgoing for half a year and you are required to make policy-related tasks such as formulating a budget, don’t ask the individuals responsible for that to simply check the box.’
Intake requirements for primary school education
A salary increase is one of the ideas proposed for combating the teacher shortage. But other possibilities are also being considered.
GroenLinks MP Lisa Westerveld, for instance, wondered whether the new intake requirements for primary school education were not too strict. She is concerned about the declining number of student applicants. Would it not be better to provide additional courses during the degree programme than to scare them off at the get-go? This way, you would not have to change the final attainment level for the degree programme.
But Bussemaker emphasised that the intake requirements were introduced because it became clear that the knowledge gaps of many students could not be reduced during the degree programme. That is why efforts are being made to resolve this issue before students start the programme. Around 2,400 teachers-in-training took part in the Preparing properly for primary school education (Goed voorbereid naar de pabo) programme this year.
Second degree programme
MP Paul van Meenen (D66) wanted to know whether tuition fees for teachers could not be reduced. He argued in favour of allowing teachers who go back to school for ‘understaffed subjects’, for example, to pay the regular tuition fee instead of the high institution tuition fee.
According to Bussemaker, this would cost thirty million euros and it was up to both Houses of Parliament and the new cabinet to decide on this. She did point out, however, that there are financial schemes available for the lateral entry of teachers and teachers wanting to undergo retraining for a subject currently understaffed.
She also pointed out the training vouchers from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment are intended for those who wish to work in a sector with shortages. The profession of primary education group teacher will most likely be added to the list of ‘high-opportunity positions’.