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BUDGET BRIEFS

Education Minister says schools need more money in 2000

Education Minister Milan Ftáčnik told media on November 16 that the draft state budget for next year is risky for the education department because it fails to fully cover the operating costs of universities and will leave high schools and elementary schools unable to pay their bills.

Ftáčnik said that his ministry was considering rationalising the high school and elementary school network to cut costs; the move might result in some schools being abolished, he said.

The minister said that the 2000 education budget proposal did include some positive ideas, such as fees for attending kindergarten, school activities clubs for children, extracurricular activities centres and elementary art schools. He added that the cabinet expects to use funds raised from privatisation to fund developments in education.

According to Ftáčnik, impending layoffs of elementary and high school teachers remains the most serious unresolved problem in the school sector. He warned that the budget counts on 10% of educational staff being laid off by July 1, but it fails to consider mandatory compensation for these people.

Last week, the country's largest university, Comenius University in Bratislava, announced that because of financial problems all faculties would close early on December 10. Other schools are also facing heating problems and are unable to pay their mounting bills.

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