In January 2016, a new publication by Eurydice reports on investment in education across Europe. The report on National Sheets on Education Budgets in Europe for the period 2014 and 2015 analyses education budgets across 38 European countries, covering all types of public funding, including public funding to private education and students and families’ support. In Europe, public funding of education accounts for 90% of total investment in education, and it is considered as under pressure mainly due to the austerity/consolidation process carried out throughout the European Semester of economic governance coordination. Eventually, the report takes into account the annual or multiannual planned expenditure only, disregarding the current expenditure which can, in any event, differ significantly from the scheduled one.

In 2015, according to the report, investment in education grew by more than 5% compared to 2014 in Spain (+5.3%), Latvia (+7.3%), Hungary (+7.3%), Sweden (+7.5%), Slovak Republic (+8.5%), Malta (+9.9%) and Romania (+16.1%). Increase between 1 and 5% is observed in France (+1.8%), Ireland (+2.2%), the Netherlands (+2.9%), Czech Republic (+3.4%), Croatia (+3.9%), Poland (+4.5%), Luxemburg (+4.6%) and Estonia (+4.6%). The education budget remained stable (increased or decreased below 1%) in the French and Flemish communities of Belgium, Bulgaria, Italy, Lithuania, Finland, England-UK and Austria. Finally, further relevant cuts are still being carried out in Slovenia (-6.5%), Greece (-6.2%), Northern Ireland-UK (-5.6%) and in the German community of Belgium (-2.3%).

Whilst ETUCE welcomes that investment in education is ultimately growing, it warns that the level of education funding is still disastrous when compared to the pre-crisis situation. Ever since, in attempting to reduce public spending to bring down public debt, a vast majority of European countries implemented short-sighted cuts in education funding hampering quality education, putting pressure on pay and working conditions, teachers’ professional development and increasing precarious contractual arrangements for teachers and education employees. Eurydice data shows that the countries which recently increased the budget the most are especially some of those which went through the deepest cuts since the economic crisis broke out in 2008 (such as Spain, Romania, Hungary, Latvia, etc.). While in other cases, such as Slovenia and Greece, further reducing public spending critically undermines free and equally available quality education for all.

Commenting on the Eurydice findings, the ETUCE European Director Martin Rømer stressed the need for governments to enhance the involvement of teacher unions as education social partners in the design and implementation of education budget and policy reforms within the frame of the European Semester coordination. “Teacher unions are crucial to ensure transparency and effectiveness in the use of resources in all the sectors of education”, he concluded.