Less than two months before the end of the year, the MEC (Ministry of Education) is skidding on investments in two of the Lula (PT) government’s main targets for basic education: literacy and full-time education.
For the promotion of extended-term schools, only 41% of the R$ 1 billion in the planned allocation has been implemented so far — the majority of this amount is unrelated to the new policy on this topic.
In the case of literacy, the situation is even worse.
The ministry did not commit a single cent of the R$801 million foreseen in the 2023 budget for the new project that promises to solve the challenges in learning to read and write for Brazilian children. In June, the government launched, at an event at Palácio do Planalto, the new National Literacy Child Commitment.
The promise was an investment of R$1 billion this year and another R$2 billion by 2026. The Lula government chose basic education as a priority, with a focus on literacy. The Minister of Education, Camilo Santana (PT), arrived at the department supported by the speech that success in policies in the area in Ceará, the state he governed, would be extended to the country.
So far, state and municipal education networks have not received any resources from the commitment. The MEC did not even commit any amount. Commitment is a reservation of resources for a certain action.
The expectation was that the money would be used this year for teacher training and material production. Schools would also receive resources to set up reading corners in classrooms. None of that happened.
This way, any effect in the classroom will only arrive next year. Education Secretaries state that, depending on the release of the resource, the 2024 school year could begin without initiatives focused on the topic taking place.
Almost 60% of Brazilian children do not know how to read and write at the end of the 2nd year of elementary school, according to data from the MEC. Lula and Camilo’s commitment aims to have 100% of students literate at the right age. The focus is on children in the first two years, around 4 million students.
In a note, the MEC says that it works to establish a federative pact and develop operational systems. “The MEC’s technical teams work to enable the transfer of resources to the networks as quickly as possible.”
If all literacy items are taken into account, which include, for example, scholarships for teaching young people and adults, the MEC paid R$20.3 million to education networks in the year. This represents 2% of the total budget.
Last year, the last year of the Jair Bolsonaro (PL) government, the items related to the topic ended the year with an execution of R$233 million, in a value adjusted for inflation.
The budget data is public and was collected from Siop (Integrated Planning and Budget System), of the Ministry of Planning.
There was a delay in defining the literacy policy. It had been promised by Camilo for the first 100 days of government, but was only announced in June.
Education Secretaries, experts and government members reported to the Sheet that there are difficulties in internal coordination within the MEC team, which has contributed to the pace of execution of actions.
The increase in investments has been central to the Lula government’s discourse on achievements. Management increased the budget for school meals and increased the value of research grants, for example.
With regard to literacy, the work so far has been focused on creating a series of coordination bodies between the Union, states and municipalities. The commitment relies on the involvement of states with their respective municipalities and collaborative governance bodies — which is inspired by Ceará.
All state networks and 97% of city halls signed up, according to the MEC. The choice of local organizers is also part of the ongoing actions.
The president of Undime (which represents municipal education leaders), Alessio Costa Lima, says that shorter payment deadlines would be positive, but highlights the importance of building federative arrangements.
“It was a year of structuring the policy and the agreement in the three instances, a central point for the success of the policy, is not something trivial”, he says. “The program will be effective, with all actions on the school floor, in 2024.”
The education secretary of the state of Pará, Rossieli Soares, says that the announced policies show the right direction, but the delay in budget execution is an obstacle to organizing the networks.
“It is important that the policies are implemented with the resources arriving, so that states and municipalities are able to organize the school year. If the money arrives too late in the year, it harms the process and planning for the beginning of the school year”, he says, who He was Minister of Education in the Michel Temer (MDB) government.
The Pará network is one of those that did not receive new full-time resources. “It is essential that we have the resources for renovations and the purchase of equipment, so that we can make the school operate with extended hours.”
The Union has transferred R$427 million to encourage full-time enrollment so far. More than half (R$ 242 million) refers to the full-time support program in secondary education created by the Temer government and whose transfers have already been agreed.
The Lula government’s program aims to increase the number of full-time enrollments by 1 million by next year.
The percentage of full-time students is 11% in the initial years of elementary school and 14% in the final years, according to the 2022 school census. In secondary education, it is 20.4%.
The MEC stated in a statement that the new full-time program was adopted by all states and 85% of municipalities. The promise is a transfer of R$4 billion until next year.
“The execution of the budget will be carried out in its entirety, as the agreement has reached the enrollment target”, says the note. The ministry emphasizes that, in respect for the federative pact, it acts as an articulator of the implemented policies, “always in collaboration with states and municipalities, executors of the agreed actions”.