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Schools feel initial brunt of Naha City privatization

Date Posted: 2005-10-13

Parents of preschool age youngsters are angry and frustrated to learn they’re the first victims of Naha City’s financial crunch.

Reeling from expenses mounting in the wake of the central government’s Trinity Reform Plan enacted earlier this year, which strips away grants and subsidies to local and prefectural governments, Naha City aimed its first cost cutting guns at preschools.

Beginning with the coming school year, preschools will be spun from the city payrolls and turned to private operators. One city owned preschool, Yogiminami Preschool, will begin in April as a private enterprise.

Naha City Mayor Takeshi Onaga, who based his reelection campaign last Fall on a pledge to tighten the budget and keep the city solvent in the wake of funding reductions from Tokyo, says he regrets the need to trim agencies and privatize others, but says they’re essential. Already, the financial situation has stopped plans to move the city government to Omoromachi area on the city’s north side. With the money pipeline trickling dry, there were no funds to purchase the land needed for building the new City Hall.

With preschools going private, things will change.

Teacher payroll, tuition fees, and even costs for food and children’s toys will go up. Now, they’re paid for by the city. Some teachers are hinting they may quit, and other workers point out food quality may join curriculum as victims. They say private companies will never take care of the children the way they do under city supervision.

“Please don’t worry at all,” say city officials. “We’ll still give advice to private companies too. Quality will not change at all.” For parents who’ve waited as long as 2 ½ years for a slot at a city-owned preschool, the move is a severe blow. “At last I could get my child in, but if it goes private I shouldn’t have to wait,” said one parent. “I don’t believe private schools will work. They will push service down because they care about money and not the children.”

Naha City, parents charge, is not listening to parents and their concerns. They hope the mayor will reverse his direction, but aren’t optimistic.

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