Sat, Oct 21, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Legislator slams school mergers

LACK OF OVERSIGHT DPP Legislator Lin Shu-fen claimed that local officials had rushed to merge schools in order to pocket Ministry of Education subsidies

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

A Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator accused the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics yesterday of encouraging school mergers that diminish the quality of education and lead to graft.

In a press conference held at the Legislative Yuan, Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) said the ministry and directorate-general rewarded the merging of schools by lavishing subsidies to be spent on merged schools on the city and county governments that oversee such schools.

A lack of oversight, the lawmaker alleged, has led to local officials rushing to merge schools in order to collect subsidies, which are then misused and even end up lining officials' pockets.

"You can't bankrupt education, you can't swindle our children," Lin said, demanding to know where all the government money for merged schools was going.

"You might as well open up a prison for every school that's closed," Lin added, referring to high crime rates in regions that lack adequate educational resources.

Lin cited a Business Weekly report in March, alleging that the Tainan County Government Accounting and Statistics Office recently requested that the county education bureau use only 70 percent of its operating budget.

"That's what I call `30 percent-discount education,'" she said, adding that the public should be informed as to where the 30 percent of funds in question is now.

She also accused the Kaohsiung County Government of abusing its federal education funds by listing stadium construction projects as items on its education budget.

Directorate-General Spokesman Lee Tay-shing (李泰興), however, insisted yesterday that federal education funds are earmarked and distributed according to the relevant laws and procedures.

"We don't encourage school mergers," Lee told the Taipei Times, adding that 70 percent of school merger subsidies were spent on relevant personnel expenses, with the remaining 30 percent applied to educational expenses.

Lee, along with MOE Chief Accountant Chen Chun-jung (陳春榮), said that their agencies' budgeting was lawful, and that they required reports from beneficiaries detailing how funds were spent.

Lin, meanwhile, proposed that education subsidies be allocated directly to the schools and other local education authorities that need them.

Distributing funds to local governments and relying on such authorities to allocate the money to the schools is leading to widespread embezzlement, Lin said.

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