The issue of additional budget stacking for some education bureaus was already an expected outcome of the extra 11 trillion won allocated following excessive tax revenue in May. Seventeen metropolitan and provincial education bureaus received 65 trillion won in financial subsidies for education this year. On top of that, they won not only a surplus of 5 trillion won from the government’s April settlement of accounts, but also a supplementary budget of 11 trillion won. Such a sudden increase in the budget was met with strong opposition from the field of education where elementary, middle and high schools had little time and energy even to prepare to teach their students because they had to hastily draw up a budget execution plan. With more money to inject, the 17 education bureaus across the country will see a larger fund than the 5.3751 billion won, which rose sharply last year.
When the education bureaus saw an additional 600 million won in grants due to the supplementary budget last year, the education bureaus struggled to find where a need for money might arise and decided to generously handing out disaster relief to parents and needlessly renovating school facilities for budget execution per se. Without fixing the scholarships which increase every year because the system is linked to internal taxes, we cannot prevent the budget from being wasted recklessly. Experts have long argued that education grants should also be used by universities to educate top students and improve R&D capabilities. However, no action was eventually taken to manage the subsidy system linked to internal taxes due to opposition from education offices.
Following the Korea Development Institute’s proposal earlier this year to reform the education grant system, the National Assembly Budget Office also called for more efficient budget management, arguing that the recent stipend increase has not led to any appropriate investment in education but has ended up increasing one-time cash support and reserve fund stacks. We should not sit idly by as fiscal inefficiencies increase in a situation where the fiscal deficit has already put us at risk.