The Lula Government will have the mission of rebuilding the country in almost all sectors and public policies, and that the reconstruction can be based on new bases, guaranteeing constitutional rights and universalist public policies. Eager to influence the direction of the elected government, lobbyists and businessmen from the most diverse sectors are disputing how they will grab public resources or snatch state assets. The most recent clash already explained was around the privatist framework for water and sanitation approved in 2020 and which the transition commission put the Lula government on alert.
Education policy is also surrounded by pitfalls and pressure from the private sector, through subsidies and deregulation, in addition to a BRL 87 billion FIES debt, a financing program for private higher education with high default rates and which benefited the growth of companies in the sector. Another drain on the public resource for education, which we will comment on, is the refund in the Income Tax.
We know that these challenges arise, to a large extent, with the change in the political conduct of the country, from 2023 onwards, and also depend on changes in the direction of economic and tax policy, tax exemptions and waivers, taxation of profits, inheritances and fortunes, and how much we will set aside from the union budget to pay the debt.
The debate on Brazil aid or Bolsa Família, which is a necessary focused policy, cannot cover up what our Federal Constitution (CF/1988) already advocates, dubbed the Citizen Constitution: a set of social rights to be guaranteed by public policies universalist, and which must be maintained with public resources and quality services. Public health and education policies, which are free and of good quality, are for everyone and cannot be put in the background when attention is directed towards supplementing targeted income.
The Constitution establishes that it is the duty of the State to guarantee its citizens “basic education mandatory and free from 4 to 17 years old, including its free offer for all those who did not have access to it at the appropriate age” (art. 208🇧🇷 In order to fulfill this obligation, guaranteeing a minimum quality standard for school education, and reducing inequalities, it determines that 18% of federal tax revenues and 25% of state and municipal revenues be allocated to the maintenance and development of education. .
The State’s priority, therefore, is clear: it must offer compulsory, free and quality public education to all its citizens. A minimum amount of resources to finance basic education is established annually. For children attending the early years of elementary school, this amount, in 2022, was R$ 5,643.92, paying for the entire school year – in a quick account, there are 12 installments of R$ 470.33, far below the amounts paid, on average, to private educational establishments.
On the other hand, families that enroll their dependents in private schools can deduct from the Income Tax (IR) part of the amounts spent on tuition. In 2022, the deduction limit was BRL 3,561.50 per declared person, a subsidy equivalent to more than 60% of the amounts spent on public school students. This subsidy removes resources from public education and pushes the middle class towards the private business of paid education – one of the most profitable veins in the knowledge society. Just look at the mergers, acquisitions and formation of large publicly traded education groups at all levels of education. It is the right becoming a commodity – which, in order to be profitable, takes public funds.
In Higher Education, the clash between the public and private sectors is also striking, with the scrapping of public universities and the capture of public funds by the private sector. If we look especially at goal 12 of the National Education Plan (PNE – 2014-2024), the objective was to reach 40% of new enrollments in public institutions of higher education. However, we perceive a contrary movement in Higher Education, aggravated in recent years. In 2020, enrollments in public institutions represented only 22.5% of the total and, as we already showed in this blogthere was a drop in enrollment of new students in public schools and an increase in enrollment in the private sector, mainly in distance learning courses, with low ENADE scores and high dropout rates.
The private sector pressures from both sides, in the suction of the public budget for direct and indirect financing of the sector (ProUni, FIES, tax exemptions) and for deregulation, as in the case of distance learning and the increase in distance learning even in face-to-face courses – the which is a way to increase profits.
While the private sector is finding new avenues of business, public funding for Public Higher Education is collapsing. In the last 5 years, Federal Universities lost more than 30% of its budget resources for costing and maintenance and more than 90% of resources for works, purchase of books and equipment. These reductions, which affected all students, but mainly a new population of young people who entered the university via affirmative action, were part of an educational counter-project by the MEC, deliberately fomenting a crisis, with the poorly managed attempt to overshadow it via ideological war against the Universities.
Regarding research resources, we also show that CAPES, CNPq and the National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development (FNDCT), fundamental bodies for financing public research institutions in the country, had their budgets drastically reduced in recent years. But, even with all the efforts to deny the importance of our universities and research institutes, students, technical professors, scientists remained firm, studying, working and producing knowledge.
The new MEC management will need to organize itself to advance decisively in meeting the goals of the 2014-2024 PNE, in addition to mobilizing the National Forums and Conferences to build a new PNE (2025-2034), democratically and on new bases. It will be essential to comply with the increase in investment in Education to 10% of GDP.
And the fundamental principle to guide this reconstruction must be the application of public resources in public education. After all, in times of scarcity, the reorganization of the National System of Education and the reconstruction of the National System of Science and Technology must be protected from the pressures of powerful business lobbies, who understand Education and Science merely as commodities and opportunities for profit expansion private.