Economy For Members

How will cuts to education spending hit schools this term?

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
How will cuts to education spending hit schools this term?
Teachers in Malmö protest against planned cuts in June. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Municipalities across Sweden are having to slash education budgets after the government refused to compensate them fully for rising costs. How will schools be affected this coming term?


What's the problem? 

The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions has estimated that municipal and regional governments need an extra 25-30 billion kronor in state funding to cover the huge budget deficit they are facing this year as a result of high inflation.

But Sweden's government raised its funding for local and regional governments by only a fraction of this -- 6 billion kronor -- in its budget for 2023, and did not add any additional spending in its spring adjustment budget. 

Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson said in May she did not intend to raise funding until next year, leaving municipalities and regions to wait until the first budget proposals are published this autumn before they know how their finances will look. 

"The state is not going to be able to compensate for all the cost increases which have come about because of inflation," she said. 


How much are municipalities cutting spending on schools? 

Malmö, which already spends the least on schools per head of Sweden's major cities, is also saving the most, with the municipality deciding in January that its schools should save 200 million kronor. Primary schools, or grundskolor, were the hardest hit with expected savings of 89 million. 

Gothenburg's municipality said in May that its primary schools would have to make savings of 50 million kronor.

In Örebro, the municipality has said it will save an extra 46.4 million on schools in 2023. 

In Stockholm, teachers succeeded in getting the municipality to pledge to increase spending on primary schools by 102 million kronor, after launching a protest calling on the municipality to make up an estimated 250 million shortfall in its school budget. 


How will constraints on school spending affect teachers next term? 

Most municipalities have insisted that they are not planning to cut down on the number of teachers they employ.

But Andrea Meiling, the Gothenburg chair of the Swedish Teachers’ Union, told the Vi Lärare teachers' union newspaper that the city was making cuts on the sly by not replacing teachers who retire and not reemploying temporary staff. 

In Stockholm, Anna Charlotta Gräslund, who organised the successful protest in May, said that it was clear that the municipality was already cutting teachers. 

"We can see that teaching positions, but even more often assistant teacher positions and other supporting positions, have been retracted," she said. "Fixed-term employment has not been extended. Classes and [after school] fritids-groups have increased due to fewer staff. Teachers have had to teach more and bigger groups, thus having less time for each student/child. No substitutes are hired and instead the teachers are appointed to substitute on top of their regular duties." 

She said that the extra money the protests had won would "alleviate the situation in the primary schools", but was still insufficient. 


How will constraints on school spending affect other staff in schools next term? 

A survey of municipal representatives for the Kommunal union, carried out by Kommunal Arbetaren, the union's in-house newspaper, found that more than half of Sweden's biggest municipalities were likely to cut down on auxiliary staff in schools in the autumn term. 

Kommunal represents primarily people working at preschools who are barnskötare, rather than qualified preschool teachers, assistant teachers or elevassistenter, and fritidsledare, who work in after-school activities.

Many of their workers are on temporary or short-term contracts, meaning they are first in the firing line when municipalities make cuts. 

"The way they are employed is not as not as secure as teachers, so they are more at risk" Johan Erlandsson, the journalist who wrote the Kommunal Arbetaren story, told The Local. "Our members are very worried about their jobs, and there's also a big worry about what will happen to the kids, because it's probably the most vulnerable kids who need these members of staff the most." 

The newspaper contacted Kommunal representatives at Sweden's biggest 20 municipalities, and found that 67 percent, including those based in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, saw a risk that members working at schools on temporary or short-term contracts would not have their contracts continued after the summer.

The same proportion expected temporary workers at preschools would not have their contracts renewed in the coming term, although the representative in Stockholm did not answer this question and the representative in Malmö said that while some members would not be reemployed, this was not due to the cuts. 

"This goes against everything the politicians have been talking about: preventative work, security and integration," said Malin Ragnegård, the union's chair. "These types of workers make it possible for teachers to carry out their main task, but they are also an extremely important part of making sure the needs of each and every child and young person are met, and of working preventatively in a calm and safe environment at school."


What will happen in 2024? 

With no certainty of significant increased spending in the budget to be announced this autumn, teachers are worried that the cuts seen so far this year will be extended next year. 

"It nothing is done before the 2024 budget, we will see more positions being retracted and the situation for Stockholm schools worsen even more," Gräslund said. 


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ML 2023/08/07 08:03
Sweden has one of the top 10 education systems in the world. Let's keep it that way. Don't fall in to the trap the US has when it comes to slashing education budgets

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