Education International
Education International

A Swiss government decision to rob Peter to pay Paul has a teacher union up in arms

published 27 April 2016 updated 29 April 2016

It’s going to be a bumpy road ahead as one of Switzerland’s teachers’ unions clashes with the government after making its decision to use funds earmarked for education to build new transport infrastructure.

Teacher trade unionists have firmly rejected the so-called “cash cow” initiative from the Swiss government, which would lead to deeper cuts in spending for public education and schools.

The initiative, officially known as “For a fair financing of transport,” wants the consumer tax on fuel to benefit exclusively road construction and other projects concerning road traffic, at the expense of other government responsibilities, including education. The Federal Treasury would have to deal with a loss of around CHF 1.5 billion (Swiss francs; about 1,360 billion euros) per year. According to the Department of Finance, CHF 350 million (around 318 million euros) was lost to education and research, in addition to the already agreed austerity measures of the Confederation and cantons (regions). Cuts of a further CHF125 million (about 114 million euros) would have to be made by the cantons.

“Concrete instead of education. This cannot be!” said the Dachverband Lehrerinnen und Lehrer Schweiz(LCH) President, Beat W. Zemp.

Education takes the hit

According to the Department of Finance, education and research would bear the brunt of reduced funding. If the federal state reduces its commitment, for example in vocational training (today accounting for around 25 per cent of public financing), cantons and municipalities would have to step in - with further serious consequences for public schools. The cantons would lose federal funding totalling CHF190 million francs (around 173 million euros) a year, CHF125 million of them in the field of education and research.

“Ruin our education”

For the LCH, this further decline in spending in education is neither manageable nor acceptable.

“After the cantons decided, for the years 2013 to 2018, to invest CHF1 billion (about 909 million euros) less in school and education, a further CHF475 million (around 432 million euros) will now be deleted by the “cash cow” initiative! So we ruin our good education and jeopardise the future of Switzerland,” Zemp commented.

Road construction is best funded via national road- and urban transport fund

In rejecting the “cash cow”initiative, the LCH is united not only with all of Switzerland‘s 26 canton governments, but also with a broad-based alliance of federal MPs. They stress that the construction, operation and maintenance of the roads are already well funded via the national road and urban transport fund adopted by the Senate. This, they say, represents the best approach to finance transport infrastructure.

The LCH is calling on citizens to reject this initiative through the referendum to be held on 5 June.

On 26 April, Zemp will take part in a discussion panel in Bern to be moderated by Federal Senator Ueli Maurer explaining the NO of the Federal lower parliamentary chamber to the initiative.