Staunton, July 31 – Pressure is rising to close schools in many villages and consolidate them into larger ones in district centers, a policy the Putin regime calls “optimization” intended to improve instruction but that many parents and teachers view as presaging the death of their villages and ways of life.
This policy has been in place since 2006, but it is still the case that slightly more than half of all schools in the Russian Federation are in villages, even though these institutions service only 28 percent of all Russian pupils. Given budget stringencies, the push to close them is growing (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=62F09E208C7BD§ion_id=50A6C962A3D7C).
Parents have protested and for their trouble been accused of extremism, and teachers have taken the extreme action of adopting children from regional orphanages to boost the number of pupils they have in the hopes of saving their schools. (At present, any school with fewer than 30 pupils can be closed.)
Moscow officials say that closing such small schools, many of which do not have indoor plumbing or reliable Internet access and which routinely graduate schools who do less well on standardized tests is in everyone’s interests, but few parents or teachers agree – and so more protests are likely in the coming weeks as the opening of the new school year approaches.
But these protests won’t be by parents and teachers against Moscow, despite this being central policy, but by them against local officials who in fact as central authorities like to say make all decisions about school operations including closings. Such an arrangement protects the center against protests but is based on a disingenuous argument.
Moscow pulls money out of the regions and villages and leaves the local officials with less money to take care of their responsibilities like education; and because education is a major part of local budgets, the local officials not surprisingly given Putin’s preferences for optimization look to cut schools to have money for other things.
That means not only that the protesters will once again be ignored but also that the children and rural Russia will suffer.