2 localities stop funds for day care

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2 localities stop funds for day care

Education authorities in Gangwon and North Jeolla provinces stopped paying for the Nuri Program, an education program for preschoolers, saying they ran out of money and daycare centers are not the responsibility of education offices.

The central government advised the local education offices to issue local government bonds, which are guaranteed by the central government, to raise money for the program but they refused. It is the first time financial support for the Nuri Program was put on hold.

The program has been an issue since liberals won 13 out of 19 local education superintendent posts in local elections last June. The liberal superintendents are in favor of free school meals as their key education policy and they want the central government to pay for the Nuri Program, which was one of President Park Geun-hye’s presidential campaign pledges. They say they can’t afford both meals and the Nuri Program.

It was decided in 2013 that programs for kids two years old and under would be paid for by the Ministry of Health and Welfare while programs for 3- to 5-year-old would be paid for by the Ministry of Education and local education offices. But regional superintendents oppose that agreement.

By a Saturday due date, the Gangwon Office of Education did not give 1.3 billion won ($1.2 million) to daycare centers under the Nuri Program and North Jeolla’s Office of Education refused to pay 1.6 billion won. The cost of the program is 70,000 won per child per month, which local education offices have paid in the past.

The two provincial education offices did not set budgets for the program from April, claiming that daycare centers are technically not educational facilities and the Ministry of Health and Welfare and local governments should pay for them.

The biggest impact so far is on the daycare centers themselves. Owners are complaining that if parents do not cough up some money they will eventually shut down.

“If those centers are closed, it is the children and their parents who will suffer inconvenience,” said Lee Sun-yong, secretary general of an association of childcare centers in Gangwon. “About 1,500 people from 18 cities and counties in Gangwon are planning to stage a rally at the Gangwon Office of Education on April 28 to demand the financial support.”

Lee Jeong-geun, secretary general of the North Jeolla Daycare Centers Association, said its members will “begin a movement to oust North Jeolla Superintendent Kim Seung-hwan if he keeps refusing to pay for the Nuri Program.”

On May 10, the Gangwon office is supposed to pay about 4 billion won for the program, and the North Jeolla office needs to pay 5 billion won. Both are refusing.

A similar situation happened in Gwangju and Incheon recently and they managed to keep providing financial support. But the arrangement is makeshift.

BY CHOI MO-RAN, PARK JIN-HO AND KIM BONG-MOON [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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