UPDATED: Zoltán Varga, the candidate for mayor election of DK-MSZP-Dialogue-Solidarity (DK-MSZP-Párbeszéd-Szolidaritás) drags the mayor’s daughter into his political campaign to gain more votes. It is not only unethical but irresponsible. He claimed that “ISD, a private school is built from public money” without checking the facts, in order to entice the public. His statement is echoed, repeated on many news platforms such as HVG (however they recently deleted their lastest article with the title ” Sokba került az adófizetőknek, hogy ebben az iskolában Wass Albert ne legyen tananyag” – we are wondering why?!) and 24.hu.
We encourage our readers to look past the bluster and question what you read, we did and this is what we found:
Claims of the opposite media and opposite politicians
According to the recently deleted article of the internet portal HVG, the International School of Debrecen (ISD) costs approx. 4 billion HUF to Hungarian taxpayers and is a “quasi-municipal school with a surprisingly advanced spirit”.
The author of the article complained that the school was built from public money but that it is not public; “it is at the municipal area and equipped by the municipality, but it is not a public school”. Last but not least, “it is operated by a business but is not privately owned”.
It might be worthwhile looking at the situation of the International School of Debrecen, from a different perspective, – for example, what benefits the new school will bring for the city and its inhabitants. Unfortunately, its true value is often overlooked.
Whose money was the school built from?
It is true that the building of the International School of Debrecen has been financed by the state within the Modern Cities program. However, what is important to mention here is that this program is the major development project of the Hungarian Government, supporting all county towns, announced by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in early 2015. The Modern Cities Program contains more than 250 projects worth about HUF 3,500 billion. This means that is not tailored to just Debrecen, but to the needs of all county towns.
The cities participating in the program could decide for themselves what they intended to spend their share of the funding on.
Debrecen chose programs and developments that contribute to the city’s overall investment promotion potential, while other cities have opted for road and existing school renovation and the construction of sports centers for example.
All these projects – and not just the International School of Debrecen – are partly financed from domestic funds and partly from EU funds.
With these facts in mind, it is irresponsible to say that Hungarian “taxpayers have already spent about HUF 4 billion on quasi-municipal but mostly private school.”
Let’s dig deeper into the other expenses.
In the long term, no more operational costs for the city.
As for maintenance costs, the writer of the article pointed out that the first four school years will bring a total loss of 800 million HUF to the city. This might well be true, but consider that all municipal institutions have maintenance costs, so it is understandable that the International School of Debrecen will also have such costs, – nothing unusual here.
However, there is a big difference in the case of the International School of Debrecen. Due to the tuition fees, the school is expected to become completely self-sufficient from the 5th year onwards. Unlike other schools that need to be financed from year to year, in perpetuity, reducing the municipal budget year after year.
In other words, the International School of Debrecen will save those costs for the city by becoming self-sustaining. Money that can otherwise be utilized for the city.
Last but not least, the annual running cost of most public schools might be just as high or even higher than the costs of the International School of Debrecen, but the International School of Debrecen greatly contributes to the city’s investment promotion potential, thereby helping Debrecen become a more attractive destination for business.
New jobs thanks to the International School of Debrecen. YES!
Lajos Barcsa, Deputy Mayor of Debrecen, reported that the new economic development model of Debrecen which includes the BMW investment brought more than HUF 581 billion of working capital into the city while contributing to the creation of 6078 new jobs between the years of 2014 and 2018. The International School of Debrecen was often a contributing factor in these investment decisions.
Yes, there are tuition fees in the International School of Debrecen (as in any other international school on the Earth) and maybe not everyone can afford to attend this school, but the International School of Debrecen already does a great deal to bring in new investors and provide work for thousands of people, so that hundreds of families and young people don’t have to move out of town to find work.
Perhaps the real luxury here is NOT to have an international school, because so many young graduate students educated here in state-funded schools costing Hungarian taxpayers millions of forints, then they leave the country and go to work abroad (often referred to as brain drain). Debrecen tries to change this costly scenario.
Hungarian translation is available here.