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Educational reform lacks financing

ChilNet extract from El Mercurio, La Epoca
15 May 1997

The administration's education reform package remains in limbo. The Senate Education Committee dispatched the bill Wednesday, but without approving financing due to rightist opposition to maintaining the national value-added tax (IVA) at 18 percent. The bill's extended schoolday is already in progress in some schools, but most lack the necessary funds.

Education Minister Jose Pablo Arellano had asked the Senate to approve the bill before next Wednesday, May 21, when President Frei makes his annual address to Congress. It will be the one-year anniversary of his announcement of the reform. Nonetheless, the opposition/designated senators block is expected to reject the 18 percent IVA when the bill goes before the full Senate next week.

Frei insisted Tuesday that the value-added tax must be retained to finance education in low-income areas. Frei told 600 teachers who had participated in university training programs abroad that "people with high income will pay the VAT to benefit poor children of our country who need quality education to eliminate poverty."

In related news, Santiago Mayor Jaime Ravinet disputed the federal government's claims about public school financing. The Education Ministry contends that municipalities' share in funding schools declines every year, amounting to a little over eight percent in 1995. Mayor Ravinet refuted these figures Tuesday, saying municipalities contributed more than 15.7 percent of the total education budget last year. *

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