Faced with criticism for lavishly wasting an abundant amount of financial grants for education, metropolitan and provincial offices of education decided to save most of the supplementary budget of the largest scale ever allocated for the second half of the year after finding nowhere to spend this budget. The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education submitted a budget plan to set aside 70 percent of a supplementary budget of 3.7337 trillion won to the city council but ended up being turned down due to lack of reasonability in budget planning. Busan and Gwangju education offices have recently submitted budget plans to accrue 91 percent and 69 percent, respectively, of their supplementary budget in the fund.
The issue of piling supplementary budget of some offices of education was already an expected result of an additional 11 trillion won allocated following excessive tax revenues in May. Seventeen metropolitan and provincial offices of education received 65 trillion won in financial grants for education this year. Added to this, they earned not only a surplus of 5 trillion won from the government's account settlement in April but also a supplementary budget of 11 trillion won. Such a sudden budget increase was met with strong opposition from the educational field where elementary, middle and high schools were left little time and energy even to prepare to teach their students as they had to devise a budget execution plan hurriedly. With more money to flow in, the 17 education offices across the nation will see a larger fund than the amount of 5.3751 trillion won, which rose sharply last year.
When the offices of education saw an additional 600 million won in grants due to supplementary budget last year, the education offices struggled to find where any need of money may arise and decided to hand out disaster aids lavishly to parents and renovate school facilities unnecessarily for the sake of budget execution per se. Without fixing education grants that increase every year as the system is linked to internal taxes, we cannot prevent budget from being wasted recklessly. Experts have long argued that grants for education should also be used for universities to nurture top-level students and improve R&D capabilities. However, no measure has been possibly taken to handle the grant system that links to internal taxes due to opposition from the offices of education.
Following the Korea Development Institute’s proposal made earlier this year to reform the education grant system, the National Assembly Budget Office also called for better efficiency in fiscal management, arguing that the recent rise in grants has not led to any proper investment in education but ended up increasing one-time cash support and piles of reserve funds. We should not sit on our hands while fiscal inefficiencies are growing at a situation where fiscal deficit has already put us at risk.