By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Parents in Brazil will have to dig deeper than ever into their pockets in 2014, with fees for private schools in the major cities set for another steep rise. Schools in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo have announced new rates for next year with increases of between 7-11.5 percent, all well above the yearly inflation rate.
Spending on school fees has increased 41.5 percent over the last five years, while the general consumer price index has risen by thirty percent. As the public system continues to suffer from chronic underfunding and a lack of direction, it is increasingly difficult for parents to afford private schooling for their children.
Prices vary considerably between schools in Rio, but a family with two children can expect to pay around R$2,000-R$4,000 per month in fees.
The main reason for the recent increase in fees, which can take place once a year and have to be justified in writing 45 days before the change is put in place, is the increase in labor costs. In São Paulo, for example, teacher salaries have risen by eight percent in 2013 alone.
“Like any other business, our costs are increasing in Rio,” the head of the Rio International School, Michael Lindsay, explained to The Rio Times. “Our largest expense is our staff with close to 75 percent of our school’s budget allocated for salaries and benefits for our teachers.”
“With a large percentage of foreign teachers, there are additional costs such as housing, visas, and other benefits,” he continued. “Hiring and retaining top-notch faculty costs money and resources but is worth it when tied to student learning.”
Expenses for education, including day nurseries, account for 4.6 percent of the new IPCA consumer price index from last week, which measures spending on consumer goods and services.
André Braz, an economist from the Fundação Getulio Vargas university, explained to O Globo that services in general are driving prices and inflation up, having risen by 8.7 percent this year.
However, in some schools, parents can get discounts when they enroll more than one child in the same school, according to Maria Inês Dolci from the Consumer’s Association.
“When we raise fees it is always in line with what the law allows us to and in accordance with our financial needs. It is always a delicate balance between charging a fair price which covers our costs and reducing expenses while improving the quality of education we provide,” Mr. Lindsay continued.
“Many parents understand how expensive it is to live in Rio, from rent to eating out, and as a non-profit school we are certainly not immune to the increasing costs of the environment we are in.”