School salary structure changes planned

The government wants to reform teachers’ service law.

Social Democratic (SPÖ) Education Minister Claudia Schmied and Finance Minister Maria Fekter of the People’s Party (ÖVP) reportedly agree that teachers should get higher wages in their first years on the job. Such measures would affect the incomes of new teachers but leave the salaries of people who are already plying this trade unchanged.

The SPÖ-ÖVP coalition hopes such reforms will help turning being a teacher into a more attractive alternative for young Austrians. The government is, according to newspaper reports from today (Tues), also determined to jack up teachers’ incomes year after year less strongly than at the moment. Teachers working at Austrian schools currently earn between 1,900 and 2,200 Euros a month before tax in their first year. They receive up to 4,700 Euros in their 35th year on the job at the moment.

Fekter caused a stir already last year by suggesting that the working amount of the country’s teachers should be increased by 30 per cent while their incomes could be upped by just 20 per cent at the same time. Schmied faced harsh criticism by labour unions and ÖVP leaders in 2009 when she called on teachers to work two extra hours a week at unchanged wages. The education minister’s appeal failed to find support at the SPÖ board either.

The government’s planned school service law reform package might also feature changes to rules headmasters currently must consider as far as the schedules of the staff of their schools are concerned. Many experts on educational matters have stressed in the past years that a dramatic restructure of how the domestic school sector’s areas of responsibilities are shared must be seen as a key to more efficiency. Austria is spending a lot on its education system while the performance of the country’s children in various international comparisons of kids’ skills is deteriorating.

A large number of books have been written on the problems of education in Austria. There is accord that administrative and bureaucratic procedures must be altered to get rid of the current situation in which both the state and the nine provinces are in charge of the schools’ manifold concerns. Some teachers are on the payroll of the Republic of Austria while the staff of certain types of education institutions get their incomes from regional authorities.

Around 114,000 teachers are currently employed in Austria. Around 4,200 teachers will retire a year between 2016 and 2018, according to studies. Schmied recently said she was certain that her reform agenda did not come to a halt. The education minister is engaged in increasing the number of schools which offer full-day education, supervision and physical activity programmes to kids. The ÖVP is trying to keep the number of schools which allow children to leave around midday or in the early afternoon as high as possible to ensure they spend as much time with their families as possible.

Meanwhile, the city coalition of SPÖ and Green Party has revealed plans to assign an expert on truancy. The person – whose name will be disclosed later this week – will closely cooperate with Viennese education council officials to find out how the number of such offences could be reduced, it was announced yesterday. The city’s teachers reported fewer than 500 serious offences of educational laws by pupils in 2005 but more than 1,100 in the first nine months of last year, according to official statistics.

The families of students going to who skip lessons at Austrian schools on a regular basis are currently facing fines of up to 220 Euros. However, education authorities hardly ever issue any penalties. Federal ÖVP State Secretary Sebastian Kurz said in February that the maximum fine for truancy should be higher.