Teacher ranks, budget urged slashed in ’14

JIJI

Members of an advisory panel to the finance minister agreed Monday to call on the government to slash the number of elementary and junior high school teachers to substantially cut state funding for compulsory education in fiscal 2014.

At the day’s meeting of the Fiscal System Council, members agreed that reducing the number of teachers is unavoidable in line with drops in the number of schoolchildren amid the falling birthrate.

The Finance Ministry estimates that the budget for salaries and benefits for public schoolteachers can be reduced by some ¥37 billion in fiscal 2014 starting next April, if the number of teachers is cut by 2,000 and salaries are lowered to the levels of local government employees. The reduction in teachers will not affect the teacher-student ratio, the ministry added.

The proposal met with no opposition. “Improving education by increasing the number of teachers is old-fashioned thinking,” one member said.

The council also agreed to call on the internal affairs ministry to abolish a ¥1 trillion special addition to tax grants to local governments. The special allocation quota was created to help bolster regional economies amid the global financial crisis triggered by the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008.

The overall local tax grants account for nearly 20 percent of the general-account budget.

But the plan to abolish the special addition is likely to face stiff opposition from local governments during fiscal 2014 budget drafting later this year.

The council also discussed ways to narrow gaps between prefectural governments over tax income from companies, including the strengthening of a special local corporate tax to be redistributed to those governments after being partially converted into national tax.