Motion fails to draw functional constituency support; not reducing funding deemed as 'unreasonable' A Legislative Council motion urging the government not to cut the education budget was defeated yesterday. The motion, moved by Democrat Cheung Man-kwong - who represents the education sector - urged the government to implement small-class teaching in schools in phases and introduce four-year university courses as soon as possible. It also said the government should stop building more schools. The Audit Commission revealed last month there were more than 20,000 surplus places in secondary schools. Mr Cheung warned Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen and Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung the government would 'lose yet another opportunity to make peace with the Hong Kong people' if it was to push ahead with the budget cuts in education. Professor Li has told university heads cuts of up to 30 per cent are possible between 2005 and 2008. 'If Mr Tang refuses to give up the cut, society will fight ceaselessly against the government in the next five years. This would affect the government's policies as a whole,' said Mr Cheung. He proposed that the government use its reserves and the $3.8 billion Quality Education Fund (QEF) for innovative school projects to cope with the education sector's deficit. The Frontier legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing said Hong Kong's spending on education was far lower than that of advanced countries such as Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the US. She urged the government to give schools and universities more autonomy to manage their finances. However, Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee, of the Liberal Party, said Audit Commission reports had shown there was room for savings, especially on the salaries of university staff. After a debate lasting more than three hours, the motion was supported by 22 of the 26 directly elected and election committee legislators present, but defeated by the 'no' votes of 15 of the 27 functional constituency legislators present. Professor Li said neither reserves nor QEF money should be used to subsidise education, otherwise overseas investors' confidence in Hong Kong would be undermined. He said the government lacked the resources to implement smaller classes in all schools, adding that small-class teaching had cost a huge amount, with little to show for it. The minister said it was unreasonable for some legislators to insist that not a cent could be cut from the education budget. 'If it is not slashed, spending in other sectors would have to shoulder an even bigger cut to cope with the overall deficit. Then people would ask: 'are other government services not important?',' he said.