Hungary passes contentious education law despite protest from teachers unions

Hungary passes contentious education law despite protest from teachers unions

Lawmakers in Hungary passed a controversial bill on Tuesday affecting the country’s teachers, cementing a new regime in public education that has elicited months of protests and strikes by teachers and their students.

The law, approved by the governing Fidesz party in a 136-58 vote along party lines, revokes teachers’ status as public employees, increases allowable weekly working hours and allows for educators to be transferred to other schools that are experiencing teacher shortages.

Students, teachers unions and sympathizers staged an all-day protest Tuesday in front of Hungary’s parliament building in Budapest as lawmakers assembled inside. It was the latest in a series of demonstrations that, on one occasion, saw student protesters dispersed with tear gas and rubber batons.

Protesters spelled out the word JÖVŐ (future) using 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of ice on the ground in front of the parliament to symbolize their belief that the future of Hungary’s youth was melting away with the passage of the law.

Teachers unions have said thousands of educators will leave the profession when the law is passed, and that the bill was authored without adequate consultation with the unions.

Salaries for Hungarian educators are among the lowest in the European Union, and critics of the law say it will lead to fewer new teachers entering the profession and exacerbate what they say is an already existing shortage of teachers in Hungarian schools.

Hungary’s government says the new law lays the groundwork for increased salaries, and has blamed a dispute with the EU — which has withheld billions in budgetary and COVID-19 recovery funds from Hungary over democracy and rule-of-law deficiencies — for its inability to substantially raise teachers’ pay.

Teachers have called the bill a “revenge law,” which they say was enacted as retaliation for their more than a year of strikes, demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience for higher pay and better working conditions.

Source: Ap News


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