The new Fundeb: yet another redemption for education?

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By Nicholas Davies*

To evaluate this PEC and the possible virtues or flaws of a future Fundeb, it is good to remember that the current Fundeb did not fulfill one of its objectives of maintaining and developing public basic education

Before commenting on the PEC, it is worth remembering the mistake of many entities and politicians saying, in defense of the permanent Fundeb (Fund for the Maintenance and Development of Basic Education and the Valorization of Education Professionals), that the end of the current Fundeb would represent chaos in the education, never mentioning that Fundeb represented very little new money for national education, since it consisted only of a distribution, between the State and its municipalities, of 20% of the majority of taxes already constitutionally linked to education, based on the number of municipal enrollments in early childhood education (EI) and elementary education (EF) and state enrollment in elementary (EF) and secondary education (EM), and in different weights attributed to basic education levels, modalities and teaching establishments. Thus, what some governments gain others lose in the same proportion, unless they receive federal supplementation, which is not very significant in national terms, as it corresponds to 10% of national revenue, formed by 90% of taxes from the states, the Federal District (DF ) and municipalities. It is true that this complementation was quite significant for many city halls, especially in the Northeast and Pará, but non-existent in the vast majority of city halls.

Therefore, caution is needed with the allegation that the end of the current Fundeb would bring chaos in education (which, anyway, has existed for a long time), since, without it, the governments' contribution to Fundeb would revert to them. The end would only be problematic for city halls that receive complementation and/or have significant gains in the distribution of Fundeb revenue at the state level. However, it would be a relief for many city halls (perhaps more than 1000) and all state governments that lose with Fundeb today.

Before evaluating the PEC, it should be noted that many aspects of it can only be accurately analyzed after it is regulated by law. Therefore, we do not go into all the details of it here.

To evaluate this PEC and the possible virtues or flaws of a future Fundeb, it is good to remember that the current Fundeb did not fulfill one of its objectives of maintaining and developing public basic education. According to a study by Alzira Batalha Alcântara and Nicholas Davies, to be published in September in fineduca, a magazine dedicated to financing education, the School Censuses of the National Institute of Educational Studies and Research (Inep) show that from 2007 (the first year of Fundeb) to 2019, the number of state enrollments fell (-6.620.267, or -30,2, 1.503.390%) and municipal (-6,1, or -1.788.582%) in basic education in Brazil, but private enrollment grew (+24,3, or +2006%) from 2019 to 2006. The year 2007 in the private sector was taken as a reference because, according to Inep, there was underreporting of enrollments in 2.954. The number of state schools also decreased (-8,9, or -24.136%), as well as that of municipal schools (-18,2 , or -16,6%). The number of private schools increased by 5.897%, with 2019 more units in 2006 compared to 13,7. The consequence of this was the increase in private participation in basic education from 2006%, in 19,2, to 2019% , in 2008. It is noteworthy that the greatest reduction in enrollments and municipal schools took place in the Northeast because it was the prefectures in the region (besides Pará) that received the most complementation. Authors who tend to see many virtues in Fundeb claim that it reduced inequalities in resources linked to education between states and also between municipalities in the same state. Although this is true, they fail to mention that many small municipalities with low own revenues in the North, Southeast, Midwest and South lost resources to Fundeb from 2011 to 2015, according to a study by Alexandre Peres et al published in XNUMX by INEP.

A fact that draws attention in the approval of the PEC was the almost total parliamentary unanimity around it, mainly because hundreds of these deputies have approved a series of anti-popular measures, such as social security reform, labor reform, etc. Given this, it is worth asking whether they (the vast majority of the right and extreme right) were taken by a sudden popular commitment or felt cornered by pressure from various entities and even governors of various states for the approval of the PEC. It is also worth asking whether parliamentarians and so-called progressive or left-wing entities and people sincerely believe that this PEC is a guarantee of progress, even without the problems identified below. It is a mistake to think that the constitutionalization of a policy, that is, its insertion in the permanent body of the constitution, is a guarantee of something, not least because the Brazilian State in general and its various institutions are not committed to the interests of the majority of the population. For example, the minimum percentage of taxes for education provided for in art. 212 of the Constitution was never changed, however, in practice, it was reduced from 1994 to 2010 by constitutional amendments inserted in the Transitory Constitutional Provisions Act (ADCT), untying 20% ​​of taxes from the minimum percentage calculation base, harming not only education federal but also that of States, DF and municipalities (at least from 1994 to 1999), since federal transfers to such entities were reduced as a result of this separation. Another example is the breach of art. 60 of the ADCT of the original text of the CF of 1988, which foresaw, among other things, the eradication of illiteracy by the Public Power, which is still today one of the main problems of education, whose confrontation strangely was not foreseen even in EC No. 53 of Fundeb, in 2006, nor in the current PEC. It seems that governments and parliamentarians think that illiteracy will be defeated when all illiterates die! Another, more recent example is Constitutional Amendment No. 95, of 2016, of the Temer government, which freezes in real terms, for 20 years, all public spending, including education, less spending on paying the public debt, being, however, circumvented to serve the castes of the military (which already had an increase now), the Judiciary and other categories (Federal Police, for example) fundamental for the maintenance of bourgeois order.

Another point worth mentioning is that the current government will place little supplementation in the future Fundeb, as most of it will be done after the end of its mandate. In addition, in view of the large drop in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) this year, it is quite likely that from 2021 onwards, the national revenue of the future Fundeb in real terms will even be lower than the revenue of 2019 or previous years.

We summarize below some of the main ideas of the PEC. The planned Fundeb would be a state-wide account composed of 20% of most taxes (the same as the current Fundeb, with the exception of the financial compensation provided for in Complementary Law No. 87/96) collected by the state, district and municipal governments, with the revenue shared between the state government and city halls according to the number of municipal enrollments in early childhood education and elementary education (EF) and state enrollments in EF and secondary education, in addition to criteria such as level, modality, duration of the school day, and types of teaching establishment, and necessary inputs to guarantee its quality, and considerations such as the socioeconomic level of the students, indicators of availability of resources linked to education and the tax collection potential of each federal entity, all of this to be defined in its regulatory law. The question is whether it is feasible for such a law to include so many variables, whether they are available today and who will be the interlocutors with technical competence and social commitment to do so.

There are three types of complementation for this Fundeb, inaugurating what the PEC defined as a hybrid system, by keeping part of the complementation in the current rule and inaugurating two new beacon devices. A supplement, of 10%, would be made to the funds that, in the division of the state Fundeb revenue by the number of municipal enrollments in EI and EF and state enrollments in EF and EM and the weight attributed to them by the various criteria mentioned in paragraph previous year, did not reach the national minimum value, to be defined later. The second supplement, which would start at 2% in 2021 and only total 10,5% in 2026 (half of which is reserved for early childhood education), would be earmarked for state, district and municipal governments whose total revenue is linked to the maintenance and development of education ( MDE) did not reach the national minimum value, to be defined later. Such total revenue would be formed by the 20% of the taxes that make up the Fundeb, the resources linked to the MDE that are not part of the Fundeb, the state and municipal quotas of the education salary and the first Union complement (10%). This is a positive aspect because it takes total revenue into account and mitigates the inequality of this total revenue between states and municipalities. A problematic aspect is the reservation of half of this complement for early childhood education (ECE), as if, for example, youth and adult education and the fight against illiteracy were not as important as ECE. The third supplement, of 2,5%, to be defined by law, would be made to governments that improve management and present service indicators and improved learning, with a reduction in inequalities. It would only start in 2023 and end in 2026. Thus, total complementation would only reach 23% in 2026.

There are many problematic aspects of the PEC. One, which is a setback in comparison with the current Fundeb EC (No. 53), is to introduce neoliberal elements in several of the provisions, probably due to the influence of the business movement Todos pela Educação, which has, among its effective members, the current federal deputy Tábata Amaral, who was, together with federal deputy Felipe Rigoni (PSB), apparently responsible for introducing neoliberal mechanisms into the PEC, sometimes accompanied by expressions with a social veneer (socioeconomic level of students, reduction of inequalities). This can be seen in the proposed modification of the sole paragraph of art. 158 of the CF, which, through state law, would condition the distribution of a part of the ICMS transfer to the city halls to the fulfillment of indicators of improvement in learning results and increase of equity, considering the socioeconomic level of the students, as if learning and education in general were only meaningful if quantified by instruments such as the current Basic Education Development Index (IDEB). This proposal is neoliberal because it reduces education to the quantitative domain of cognitive contents and tends to make only schools and education professionals responsible for student performance.

It is problematic that this is not proposed for the states, but only for the municipalities, as if learning and equity problems did not exist in the states, which once again shows the fragility of the federative pact. Another weakness is that this regulation will depend on state law, to be approved within 2 years.

This neoliberal trend can also be seen in the requirement (c of item V of article 212A) that, for public networks to have access to 2,5% of the 23% complement, they need to improve management and present evolution of performance indicators. attendance and improvement of learning, with reduction of inequalities, all of this to be foreseen by law. While this law is not approved, the federal government will not be obliged to contribute this 2,5%. This paragraph reinforces the managerial perspective in education, which reduces educational problems to the question of management, as if this were a merely technical activity.

The same trend is foreseen in the law regulating the future Fundeb (item X, item e of art. 212A), which will take into account, among other factors, the improvement of educational indicators (the IDEB?) and the expansion of services.

The privatization of public resources is another problematic aspect of the PEC, which provides for the allocation of part (without defining limits, a convenient loophole) of the 10,5% of the complementation to philanthropic, community and confessional institutions, according to art. 213 of CF, if there are no vacancies in the public network. Such privatization is a step backwards compared to EC No. 53, which did not provide for this, although Law 11.494, which regulated Fundeb in 2007, allowed some privatization, a permission introduced by the National Congress in the processing of provisional measure (No. 339) which initially regulated Fundeb but did not provide for this privatization . Now, privatists do not even wait for the regulation law, already introducing this permission in the PEC itself!

Another weakness of the PEC is to provide for the elaboration of the cost-student-quality by complementary law, which governments can postpone indefinitely, as they have always done. For example, a law to this effect is provided for in the National Education Plan (Law 13.005, of 2014) and has not yet been approved. The same goes for the similar notion of minimum quality standard, foreseen in the Federal Constitution of 1988, in the LDB (art. 74), in Constitutional Amendment No. 14 (which created Fundef), from 1996, and Constitutional Amendment No. 53. Therefore, the constitutionalization of cost-student-quality is no guarantee that it will actually be implemented.

Another problematic aspect (§ 7) is prohibiting the use of the minimum percentage of taxes (25%) provided for in art. 212 of the CF and the education allowance for payment of retirement and pensions, as this formulation does not include the difference between this minimum percentage and higher percentages provided for in some state constitutions (São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul, for example) and municipal organic laws , and also the complementation, which will be very significant for many municipalities in the future Fundeb. In other words, based on this formulation, mayors and governors will be able to pay retirees and pensioners with the supplement and percentages higher than the 25% foreseen in the CF. It is worth remembering that governments already used and probably still use the current Fundeb resources to pay retirees and pensioners, as is the case of the state government of Rio Grande do Sul. Who guarantees that they will not continue to violate constitutions and laws?

An apparently progressive aspect of the PEC (item XI) is the allocation of at least 70% of Fundeb to pay basic education professionals. However, a more careful analysis shows the fragility of this. Firstly, the 70% is not levied on the total revenue linked to the MDE, but only on the Fundeb revenue, which, if lower than the contribution of states and municipalities to Fundeb, will not allow for salary improvement, as the 70% will be calculated on an income lower than the contribution, as happened with all state governments and many city halls in the current Fundeb. Secondly, the 70% does not apply to the 23% planned for complementation (in 2026!), but only to 19% (in 2026). The 2,5% (out of 23%) of complementation (item c of item v) nor 15% of the 10,5% of complementation (item b of item v), reserved for capital expenditure, are not included in the calculation basis. Therefore, the 70% will be levied on Fundeb revenue and the 19% (23% – 2,5% – 1,5%) of complementation, this for the governments that receive the 23% of complementation. For those who do not receive it, the 70% will be levied only on Fundeb revenue, therefore not based on all other resources linked to the MDE.

The PEC contains two positive points. One is to predict that, in the event of extinction or substitution of taxes, the percentages will be redefined in order to maintain the values ​​previously applied. However, this does not solve a chronic problem in Brazil, which is tax waivers by governments (currently equivalent to hundreds of billions of reais at the federal level alone), which, in practice, without extinguishing or replacing taxes, ends up reducing revenue. linked to the MDE and also to the funds. Another positive point is to establish that the federal quota of the education salary cannot be used in the complementation, which already existed in the current Fundeb.

In summary, we can say that the PEC presents the following main positive points, among others already mentioned: (1) the supplement of 10% (which would not be new in relation to the current Fundeb) increases the resources linked to education in the states and municipalities that , based on the 20% of taxes that make up the Fundeb, do not reach the national minimum value, reducing the inequality of resources at the national level; (2) the additional complement of 10,5%, to be made based on the total revenue linked to education, and not just the 20% of Fundeb taxes, also contributes to reducing this inequality, which, however, will continue to exist. Among the fragile points we can highlight the following: (1) the 10% complement is small and means, in practice, that Fundeb is financed by states, DF and municipalities (90%), that is, it is not a virtue of the government federal; (2) the additional complement of 10,5% is also small because the revenue of states, DF and municipalities in national terms is significant, not to mention that half is linked to early childhood education; (3) the PEC contains neoliberal traits, although accompanied by a social veneer (students' socioeconomic level, reduction of inequalities), by conditioning part of the transfers to the improvement of management and learning results, and is privatizing by allowing part of the 10,5% of the supplement is used in non-profit denominational, philanthropic and community institutions; (4) the 70% of Fundeb reserved for paying education professionals is illusory, as it does not take into account the totality of resources linked to education and also the fact that many governments will continue to lose in the distribution of the 20% of taxes to other governments in at the state level and, therefore, the 70% will be levied on less, not more, revenue, especially when the supplement is not greater than this loss.

Finally, no matter how good the PEC approved by Congress and the law that will regulate it are, a crucial issue is to ensure that governments comply with the laws (a chronic structural problem in Brazil) that are of interest to the majority of the population and the supervisory bodies (Tribunals of Accounts) perform their function correctly, which is also not common. Hence the importance of social control over education budgets, which, although provided for in the PEC, was very weak in Fundef (in force from 1998 to 2006) and in the current Fundeb (in force from 2007 to 2020) and there is no guarantee that it will be less fragile in the future Fundeb.

*Nicholas Davies is a retired full professor at the Faculty of Education at the Fluminense Federal University, Niterói, RJ

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