Ecolo’s plan to alleviate shortage of preschool openings

  • Deferred indexing miraculously puts €12 million into the Community’s pocket.
  • Ecolo co-president Emily Hoyos proposed to flow the funds into creating 3,000 new openings in Brussels preschools now suffering from shortages.

Generally, schools fight to get more students. In the capital, however, the situation is reversed, and parents have trouble finding a school for their children. That is true for secondary schools. Some areas of Brussels cannot handle the demand, as each year’s famous registration report demonstrates, but overall, supply outweighs demand.

The situation is more critical at the preschool level. As Le Soir reported on October 3rd and 4th, waiting lists are getting longer and directors are inundated with requests. One indicator: out of 99 preschools in the Catholic system within the capital, 87 were full on October 1st.

Is it a crisis? Yes, and according to the Catholic system’s calculations, there will be 1,368 additional 2.5 to 5 year old students at the beginning of the 2014 school year. Preschools are already swamped. Shortly, elementary schools will experience the same shock.

Schools are groaning and municipalities are overwhelmed. “This has caused quite a stir,” observes Ecolo co-president Emily Hoyos. “We have to react and create new openings for the fall of 2014 right away.”

The ecologist recalls that Jean-Marc Nollet, minister in charge of school buildings, has put in place a plan aimed at opening 20,000 new openings for secondary schools and preschools. “These are attic renovations, new buildings, new desks, expansions. That’s the answer, but that’s a four-year plan. We can already feel the anxiety growing for next school year.”

What does Emily Hoyos propose?

Her 2014 budget, which was just completed at the end of September, has good news for the French Community: “She learned, along with other authorities, that the 2014 cost-of-living index will fall one month later than planned. Since the Community’s budget is made up mostly of salaries this suddenly leaves €12 million available for 2014. It’s there on the table. We have to seize the opportunity. We want the Community to use the 12 million to create 3,000 additional openings in modular classrooms. These openings have to be available in September 2014. The government will therefore appeal to the preschools and elementary schools of all of Brussels’ school systems. It will be up to them to say if they need openings to say if it would be possible to construct one or more modular classroom buildings on their property. This will be financed 100% by the Community, whatever system the school belongs to (1). Between now and the next school year, the pressure on preschools and elementary schools can be reduced. That’s not just a Band-Aid.” 

The Community’s government that was just alerted a few days before about the existence of this unexpected manna totaling €12 million, must still decide on its use.

Although no one has yet expressed themselves publicly, no doubt this unexpected money will create some interest around the ministerial table. But Emily Hoyos pleads: This would be a net increase in openings. People in Brussels are worried. We absolutely have to respond. We are not proposing a Band-Aid, but giving the system some breathing room.”

PIERRE BOUILLON

 

(1)Traditionally, financing for school construction and repairs varies according to system. Community financing is less favorable for municipal and private schools. In the Ecolo proposal, financing of modular classrooms for the 2014 school year would be equal and complete. The French Community would take on all expenses.

 

 

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