A 10,000-signature-petition was handed to Parliament speaker Eiki Nestor on Monday to try and stop amendments to the Private Schools Act.
“This is a noteworthy number of people, who are worried about the survival of private schools. We call on the government to regard the future of the around 6,000 children studying at privately set up community schools with care and drop an unreasoned draft act which would leave private schools without state support and would lead to many schools being closed. I hope our voice is heard,” Kalev Roosiväli, who leads a movement named “Openly about education” (Avalikult Haridusest), which encompasses parents of children in private schools and the heads of private schools.
The Parliament is set to discuss changes to the act on Tuesday. The amendments, if passed, would make local municipality funding for private schools voluntary. Municipalities pay for the upkeep, utilities and salaries of support staff. The state will continue to pay private schools money for teachers' salaries, school lunches, books etc, on par with state and local schools, a representative for the Ministry of Education said.
Amendments would allow local governments to decide if a private schools is necessary for the community. A number of local governments, such as Tartu, Rakvere, Viljandi and Pärnu, have already said they will continue to finance private schools, if the act is passed.
The act has been drawn up without serious impact analysis and without knowledge of the role private schools play in education in Estonia, Kauni Sillat, founder of the Pärnu Free School, said, adding that without financial support from the state, private education would be unattainable for many children who are currently enrolled in private schools.
“Dropping support for private schools would rob Estonia of a very beautiful private initiative. The how-they-came-to-be stories of private schools do not talk of bloated wallets but of united and dedicated parents who wish to bring different options to education. The current coalition is emphasizing tolerance and the need to support smaller groups, but when it comes to questions on the education of children, for some reason the opposite, standard solutions and uniformity is favored,” said Katrin Tibar, parent of a child at the Rocca al Mare private school.
A number of familiar figures have signed the petition, such as Erkki-Sven Tüür, Kristiina Ehin, Jüri Mõis, Üle Vooglaid, Jaan Kaplinski, Sandor Liive, Tambet Tuisk, Hendrik Sal Saller, Evelyn Sepp, Priit Sibul, Tunne Kelam, Epp Petrone, Hannes Tamjärv, Ott Sepp, Jaak Madison, Emil Rutik, Hedvig Hanson, Toivo Asmer and Tõnu Tõniste.
The petition was organized by the initiative “Avalikult Hardisusest,” with the support of a number of organizations including Waldorf schools, Christian schools and the association of private schools in Estonia.
Editor: J.M. Laats