The Social Democrats on the Tallinn City Council have changed their minds and will join the Reform Party in expressing a vote of no confidence in a deputy mayor, despite seeing differently on the matter of the city-funded Russian Lyceum.
The Social Democrats say they support the idea of an educational center giving lessons to Russian-speaking pupils to supplement the curriculum, but charge that the city government has not been transparent enough in funding it. The party will thus vote against Mihhail Kõlvart when the motion comes to a vote at an extraordinary session, party members said today.
"It's important for us that public authorities not only do the right things but that they do them honestly and transparently. That is the real reason why we believe Kõlvart is not fit to continue in his post," said Rainer Vakra, the head of the Social Democratic party in Tallinn.
But the party added that it considered it unacceptable that IRL and Reform were, as they put it, sowing an ethnic conflict.
"The explanations given by these parties in regard to the vote of no confidence in Kõlvart do not speak to a desire to promote education in the capital but an irresponsible attempt to hitch the Lyceum to the goal of sowing oppositions between ethnicities," the party said in a statement.
A member of the faction, Lauri Laats, said the party deems it reasonable for Tallinn to offer additional tutoring in math, chemistry and other subjects to Russian-speaking children who due to national legislative requirements have to study in Estonian in a case where they lack proficiency.
"But there's no public information on the courses and broader educational system, and the foundation behind the Lyceum doesn't even have a website. So even though it functions as a education institution, it is not registered with the Estonian Educational Information System and it lacks approved curricula. Lack of transparency deepens suspicions that taxpayer money is being spent unwisely," Laats said.
National officials have entered the fray, with Education Minister Jaak Aaviksoo saying last week that the Russian Lyceum should pick a different name that distinguishes it from a prep school and be subject to standard requirements for schools.
Tallinn Deputy Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart has been criticized by members of the opposition in Tallinn for allegedly obstructing the transition to Estonian as the language of instruction for most subjects in secondary schools.