Friday, September 16, 2011

The budget cuts which hobbled GEPIK - Part 2

Yesterday I posted the first part of a look at the cuts to the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education's (GPOE) supplementary budget by the Gyeonggi Provincial Council which left the GPOE unable to pay the salaries of the native speaking teachers hired by GEPIK working in the provinces public schools. Here is part two:

It should be noted that there were cuts across the board to the education budget by the provincial council, as this Yonhap article from July 18 shows:
GPOE's "strong dissatisfaction" over "indiscriminate" budget cuts.

At 9.9 trillion won, the special budget committee voted to raise the budget by 1.03 trillion won more than [this year's] original budget, but cut 80.6 billion won, 77 billion won of which is to be switched to a reserve fund.

The GPOE planned to have a budget of 17.7 billion won for free lunches for kindergarten children aged 3-5 for the second semester, but only received 7.5 billion for 5 year olds, and had 10.2 billion cut for ages 3-4.

The budget allowing early retirement for 100 teaching staff was cut entirely, while 15.6 billion won for native speaking assistant teacher expenditures, 1.5 billion won for additional staff needed by schools following the shift to direct management of school meals, and 5 billion won for (Korean) English conversation instructors was cut.

On the other hand, though the number of working days for cooks was increased, the supplementary expenditure of 2.7 billion was halted at the end of the first semester, while the expenditure for intern health teachers at large schools in city centers, which the GPOE had planned to fix at 600 million, was increased.[...]

The GPOE was not happy about the entire budget for early retirement being cut, as 210 teachers had already applied for early retirement in the second half of the year. They also did not hide their disappointment over the halving of the kindergarten lunch budget.[...]

[T]he [Korean] English conversation instructors expenditure is organized from supplementary supporting money from the government, but as this has been cut, it will have to be returned to the government.

As additional expenditures for native speaking assistant teachers for the second half of the year were also cut, schools will find it difficult to pay around 300 assistant teachers, the GPOE claimed.
So we can see that it was not just the budget for native speakers that was cut, but also for Korean conversation instructors (among many other things).

As pointed out at ROK Drop, a GEPIK email to teachers was posted at
Firstly, the news article stated that some contracts will be terminated before their full term ends and that those with current contracts may not be able to receive their salaries starting next month. There will be no early contract terminations unless you break Article 11-1 of your contract. Your schools will honor your full 365-day contract, which means your salaries, airfare reimbursements; severance pay, etc. will be paid to you as stated within your contracts. Contrary to the news article, your salaries will still be paid until the end of your contracts.

Secondly, due to the recent budget cuts, schools will not renew or sign new contracts starting from the month of October 2011(1st of October). Hiring teachers will resume next year once the budget has become more secure and stable. Once everything is set in place, schools will begin hiring on March 1
As ROK Drop also noted, the Korea Times reported on July 22 that GEPIK did not plan to cut all foreign teachers.
A provincial education authority said Friday that it will maintain the number of foreign English teachers it employs at the current level of about 820 next year.

The Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education (GPOE) said there will be no cuts in jobs for foreign teachers at elementary, middle and high schools over the next couple of years.[...]

“The council’s budget cut will not affect the plans for hiring English teachers next year,” said an official from the GPOE who declined to be named. “We’ve decided not to reduce the number below 819. This is the minimum required to continue our English education. We will make sure that the necessary budget is secured.”

The council’s budget cut drew criticism from the GPOE which claims it had to include the request in the supplementary submission as the council had previously rejected it. However, council members disagreed.

“We gave them everything they requested in the main budget and now they’re asking for more without properly explaining why they need it,” said an official from the council. “They didn’t give us specific reasons for needing the money. We can’t give out extra money without getting specific and detailed explanations of how it will be used.”

Council officials said hiring foreign teachers was quite costly.

“There is a long-term plan to reduce the number of foreign English teachers,” said Shin Jong-cheol, a member of the GPC. [and the head of the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts.] “In the past when English was difficult to learn, the role of foreign teachers was important. However, now students can interact with foreign teachers overseas through video, so their role here has significantly decreased.”

“Just having one foreign teacher per school doesn’t really have much of an effect,” he said, explaining the need for the reduction. “The GPOE knows this as well and this is a matter that has been agreed upon.”
Well, according to the head of the Provincial Council's Special Committee on Budget and Accounts, English is no longer difficult to learn. And how happy the GEPIK teachers must be to know that what they do "doesn’t really have much of an effect." The article continues:
It costs about 3.84 million won a month per foreign English teacher. This includes salary, housing, pension and insurance contributions, and flight costs.

“On average, their monthly income is 2.3 million won and the housing fees range from 500,000 to 800,000 won. This is about 3 million won on average. Of course the flight costs and other fees need to be added. If we only look at the monthly income, we pay more to Korean teachers, but overall, foreign teachers cost a lot more,” an official from the GPOE said.
There are some problems with those calculations. According to the article from last November translated here, for Gyeonggi-do foreign teachers, "[b]y [pay level], 46 teachers were at Level S, 89 at Level 1+, 320 at Level 1, 452 at Level 2+, 791 at Level 2, and 487 at Level 3, and 18 others [are not known]." How much each level is paid can be seen here, so this chart lays things out:

After doing the math you end up with an average of 2.166 million, not 2.3 million as stated above. I'd make a guess that pension and health insurance (which the school matches) are around 150,000 a month, with airfare (divided by 12 months) coming out to a little less than 200,000 per month, making for an average total expenditure per month (before housing) to be around 2.5 million won. As the article says, "On average, their monthly income is 2.3 million won and the housing fees range from 500,000 to 800,000 won. This is about 3 million won on average." They've factored the housing in at an average of 700,000 per month, so if we add that to the total of 2.5 million won, we end up with 3.2 million won - 640,000 won less than the proposed 3.84 million. It might not seem like a big figure, but when you multiply that difference by the 2185 teachers in the above figures, you end up with a total difference of around 1.4 billion won per month.

The statement from GEPIK that they would start not renewing contracts from October may or may not be entirely true, as this July 29 posting at notes:
I got renewed for another year at my school and signed the new 1 yr contract back in June. Then about a week ago I got an email from GEPIK coordinators (in English) that sent out an official GEPIK statement saying they will stop hiring from Oct to Dec, but if you signed a contract already, it will be honored for the 1 year term and nobody has to worry about getting terminated in the middle of the contract.

Now I just got a phone call from my CT a few minutes ago and she told me the GPOE called her and told her they don't know anymore if they can send funding to our school. So the Principal has to scrap my 1 yr contract and make a new one tomorrow to last until December instead of the full year at next September.
As Shin Jong-cheol, the member of the Gyeonggi Provincial Council quoted above, said, "[N]ow students can interact with foreign teachers overseas through video." Three weeks after mentioning this, Yonhap published an article (translated here) on August 10 revealing that such a video system would be implemented on a trial basis:
From September until next February 50 elementary, middle and high schools in Gyeonggi-do will operate a pilot project in which native speakers living overseas will hold live 'telelectures.'

On the 10th the Gyeonggi office of education said, "To bridge the gap in English education we plan to have native speaker telelectures at 50 schools during second semester." [...]

The provincial office of education will decide whether to continue and expand the use of telelectures after analyzing the results of the pilot program.

The provincial office of education expect that the telelectures will help bridge the English education gap for students in areas where it's difficult to hire native speaking teachers.
No mention was made of the budget cuts as a possible reason for implementing this pilot program, so it's hard to know if this was something that was already in the offing for rural areas "where it's difficult to hire native speaking teachers," or if it was in response to the budget cuts.

On August 24, Yonhap published the following article (which was reprinted or summarized by half a dozen other news outlets) about the GEPIK budget cuts:
The Gyeonggi Office of Education second semester native speaking instructor unpaid wage crisis.

Related budget cut by provincial council ... provincial office of education says, "There's no way [to pay]."

(Suwon, Yonhap News) With the provincial council having cut the entire related budget, Gyeonggi Office of Education is in a crisis as it is unable to pay the personnel expenses of around 1000 native speaking instructors.

The provincial office of education notified each school that if they use the school operating budget to pay the native speaking instructors first, it will be made up to them later, but the schools are also actually in a difficult position.

According to [a statement by] the provincial office of education on the 24th, on July 18 the provincial council, while deliberating over the first proposed revised supplementary budget, said "a sufficient basis for the compiled budget was not provided" and cut the entire budget of 15.6 billion won for the personnel expenses of native speaking instructors.

This budget was for the provincial office of education to pay the salaries of 1000 native speaking instructors from August to next February.

As the entire related budget was cut, the provincial office of education is in a situation where it cannot pay the personnel expenses of native speaking instructors during this period.

The provincial office of education sent a document to each school with a native speaking instructor ordering them to not renew the contracts of native speaking instructors whose contracts have expired and to pay the salaries of native speaking instructors first using the school operating budget.

As well, they were instructed to switch the provided housing to monthly rent and use the key money to pay the salaries of the teachers.

In this way, if first salaries are paid, then in November when the second supplementary budget is compiled the related budget can be secured and [GEPIK] can be maintained.

However, small scale schools are complaining of difficulties because they do not have enough in their operating budget to use to pay the salaries of native speaking instructors.

They are also in situations where things have not turned out due to problems with the native speaking instructors' contracts or using funds such as the key money to pay their salaries.

A school official at a high school in Pocheon said, "There is still some of the related budget left to pay the salary of the English instructor for now, but not enough to cover it until next February." "We do not have enough extra operating budget to borrow from for personnel expenses."

There is concern over the possibility of native speaking instructors at some schools suing for unpaid wages.

In addition, some provincial councilors still have a negative perception of placing native speaking instructors [in schools] and it is thought that it will be difficult to guarantee a budget for GEPIK when the provincial office of education compiles the 2nd supplementary budget.

An official from the provincial office of education's international exchange and cooperation department said, "We are worrying over the various ways in which to maintain [GEPIK] after having first used the school operating budget." "But for now, the truth is that there is no particular way to secure the personnel budget for native speaking instructors during the second semester."
It seems the office of education is doing what it can to try to keep what teachers it can. I'm wondering if there is anyone working for GEPIK who has experienced the things mentioned in this article like converting the jeonse key money into a means to pay their salary.

There has been talk that the cuts to GEPIK represent the future of native speaking teachers in the public school system, but this is likely premature. As I noted here, other provinces and cities are hiring more native speaking teachers, not cutting them, and the GPOE was forced to make hard choices due to the actions of the Gyeonggi Provincial Council.

Also worth noting, considering their role in all of this, is that the Gyeonggi Provincial Council passed a bill in May which, citing problems with 'drug addicts' working as native speaking instructors, amended the hagwon law so as to punish with fines or closure hagwons who hire drug addicts (and sex criminals, both Korean and foreign, though this has been played down in the media). The catch? The hagwon law didn't allow for such penalties for hiring people with drug arrests in their background (though there were plans to amend the law), but despite the fact the bill wasn't quite legal, it was passed unanimously by the Gyeonggi Provincial Council anyways.* This may give some idea of how the council members feel about foreign teachers. Or it may not - it's also worth remembering that they cut the budget for Korean conversation instructors (who are intended to replace native speaking teachers) as well.

I have to say though, I don't quite understand the 'progressives' who dominate the Gyeonggi Provincial Council who set about implementing free school lunches for the richest 50% of the population while cutting the only access to native speaking teachers that low income students will be able to get (as well as cutting the budget for the Korean conversation instructors intended to replace them). If there's some sort of coherent policy there I certainly can discern it.

*There are Korean language articles about the hagwon bill being not particularly legal but being unanimously passed anyway which will be translated and posted here soon.


Darth Babaganoosh said...

"Just having one foreign teacher per school doesn’t really have much of an effect"

That's because they are not effectively used.

It's got nothing to do with how many foreign teachers are in each school, and everything to do with what they are allowed to do in the classroom, the number of contact hours with students, and support from admin and co-teachers.

Anonymous said...

Two years ago Kyopo teachers started at 1.5 million Won plus housing. I saw a break down of each teachers pay in my district. I know they discriminate against Kyopo teachers and isn't the trend to hire cheaper teachers? When teachers find their own housing not more than 500 hundred thousand Won is paid, at least I didn't see any of the teachers getting more than that 2 years ago so I really question the 700 hundred thousand Won amount. Are we to believe that new teachers benefit more than those experienced teachers who are privey to arrange their own housing? Thus, the 1.4 billion Won should be increased. And, ain't it all lost at the room salons anyway since the Education Ministry tops the room salon list as most avid fans?
During down times such as these with budget cuts, I've heard the room salons prevail quite well.

Colin Thompson said...

When you mentioned that the free lunches are accessible to the top 50 percent of the population, what does this actually entail? I came to understood that the free lunches were accessible to all school children. Could you please elaborate more on this, because this was fantastic read!!!

matt said...

Colin Thompson:

Free lunches were apparently already in place for the poorer 50% or so of students, so by providing 'universal' free lunches, they are in fact expanding a system already in place and providing lunches to the 50% or so of the population that doesn't really need them.