Guedes wants to create ‘kindergarten voucher’ program

kindergarten guedes
Economy Minister Paulo Guedes speaks during Challenging the Dominance of the Dollar session at the World Economic Forum. Photo: Ciaran McCrickard/WEF

Economy Minister Paulo Guedes proposed an amendment to the expansion of the National Basic Education Development Fund (Fundeb) to cover spending for a new cash transfer program financing private kindergarten education for low-income families.

The initiative would become a part of the already well-established Bolsa Família program, which provides additional income to 13.9 million families and served as the basis for the government’s emergency salary scheme during the Covid-19 pandemic. The government also plans to rebrand Bolsa Familia under the new name of ‘Income Brazil,’ as part of his bid to leave his fingerprints on Brazil’s most successful welfare program.

Mr. Guedes proposes that 5 percent of Fundeb’s expanded budget be earmarked for the ‘kindergarten voucher’ program, providing BRL 6 billion (USD 1.12 billion) in initial funding. The program would pay monthly stipends of BRL 250 (USD 47) to low income families, which could benefit as many as 2 million children in its first year.

The proposal, however, was met with criticism and skepticism in Congress, as many believe Mr. Guedes’ idea would further defund an already precarious public education system in favor of increasing the revenue of private nurseries, thus contributing to the already sizable gap between private and public education.

The existing proposal pending in Congress would see a fixed 20 percent increase to the annual budget of Fundeb, as opposed to the incremental increase proposed by Mr. Guedes. The Economy Minister’s version also caps spending on public school teachers’ salaries — a subject of countless protests and demands by educators in recent years.

Mr. Guedes argues that the government would pay considerably less in funding private kindergarten education for children from low income households than providing the basic education infrastructure itself. Public education advocates, however, believe the program would be an excuse to halt further investments on education spending. 

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