Wednesday, November 10, 2010

School Budgets

About two weeks ago, I went to the annual SMOE NSET workshop, which I barely mentioned here because there was not much to mention. However, during the sharing session, a couple of people (these are all high school teachers) talked about their candy budget.

I had two responses to that: a) that much candy you need a budget? Seriously? For high school students? Whatever; and b) you have a budget?

So, this got me wondering, Do I have a classroom budget? Before I go on, let me clarify it's not that the school I am at is niggardly (with apologies to David Howard), as whenever I've asked for teaching materials they've always been very accommodating--but that's not the same as having a budget!

In any case, I pretty much have what I need: enough desks and chairs; heater and air conditioner; loads of lockable storage cabinets; a modern computer and sound system; and even a large touch-screen display. In fact, it's a rather nice room. Still, I buy things for my classes occasionally, like those witches' hats for the Harry Potter pictures. I generally just out-of-pocket the expense, and don't worry about it--what's a few thousand won here or there, right? (I know, I know, I'll never be a millionaire thinking that way ...)

But I also generally save the receipts.

I've wanted a presentation pointer for a while (the kind of thing that lets you advance Powerpoint slides and so on from anywhere in the room), but Miss Lee had told me that Korean teachers should buy that for themselves. At 75 to 100 KW (kilowon), I didn't want one that much. Well, I did finally break down and buy one just recently for use in my public speaking class.

Anyway, I asked around about my classroom budget, and got an answer today: 500,000 W. About USD 450. This does not include paper and printing costs. So, I go to my room and tally up the receipts I've collected since March 2: 88,420 W.

Yikes. Coming out of my pocket, that sounds like a lot, but coming out of a 500,000 won budget, it's not much. Therefore, I went to the nearby Daiso during my free period and bought twenty bucks worth of marker pens and plastic tubs to put them in, so there are enough for each of my student tables to have their own. (For a first grade lesson I'll blog around the end of the week.) 111,420 W. 388,580 W to go.

Serendipitously (with apologies to Arthur C. Clarke), when I looked through the papers this evening, what did I see but a story carried in both the Korea Herald and the JoongAng Daily about next year's budget from SMOE (my employer). Sez KH:
The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education will almost quadruple the free education budget next year, officials said Monday.
The office unveiled its final budget plan for next year, which amounts to 6.6 trillion won, a 4.7 percent increase from this year.
A total of 249 billion won is to be allocated to free education, a 376.7 percent rise from this year’s 52.2 billion won, according to the budget plan.
Of that amount, 116.2 billion won is to be used for free meals in elementary schools,

The article continues:
The education support fund for low-income family preschool children has been raised by 51.4 percent from 29.5 billion won to 75 billion won, officials said.

Hmmm. Actually, 151.4% of 29.5 billion comes to about 45 billion. This would presumably be a typo by the Herald, as the JAD account gives the current budget number as 49.5 billion.

So, where is all that money coming from, if the net effect of these increases only raised the budget by 4.7%? Cutting back on native teachers, perhaps?

Maybe, but there's no mention of it. No, the big loser appears to be school facilities improvement, which KH calls "repairing and exchanging deteriorated buildings and facilities": down 27.1 percent.

The upshot is, then, that it is my school's plan to build an elevated gymnasium, rather than me and my measly 500 dollar budget, that will suffer from the cuts: click here and scroll to #4.

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