Ligi on private schools: If you want special treatment, you have to pay for it yourself

Minister of Education and Research Jürgen Ligi. (Postimees/Scanpix)
5/7/2016 7:04 AM
Category: News

In response to the private school state subsidy compromise reached on Thursday, Minister of Education and Research Jürgen Ligi found that as one can get a solid education from public schools, and there are no educational miracles to be found in private ones, anyone who wants special treatment has to pay for it themselves.

The Estonian Government reached an agreement on Thursday under which the state would continue subsidizing private schools, albeit on a more limited basis, through the year 2020. Speaking on Vikerraadio news broadcast “News+”, the Minister of Education and Research found that compromise was better than indecision, as the system currently in place was unique in the world.

“Common sense cannot explain how paid education is supported from state coffers at double the amount of public schools,” he noted. “This is entirely abnormal and totally devastating to the entire school system.”

According to Ligi, the deal struck on Thursday should give way in three years to a totally normal financing system for private schools, in which private initiatives are also labeled as such. He stressed that education subsidies have not been under dispute at all, as education subsidies, which are essentially paid per child wherever the child goes, have remained equal all along.

“What was under dispute was whether or not the state should automatically help finance private schools’ operational costs,” explained the minister. “It was decided that this will continue automatically for another three years, but not at 150 percent of the current amount of municipal schools’ local expenditures as currently, but rather at 75 percent. The way things currently were, operating subsidies from local governments for private schools were effectively bigger than those for municipal schools.”

According to Ligi, the three-year transition period will give private schools the opportunity to build up a financial grounding for themselves instead of just continuing to grow unchecked.

“This is actually a very generous system compared to other public services,” added Ligi. “In no other area does the private sector automatically receive a contract from the state — one still has to compete somewhere and reach some sort of agreement.”

In the minister’s opinion, private schools will continue to remain very privileged, as they will continue to automatically receive funds to pay for teachers’ wages, school lunches as well as learning aids. According to the law, operational subsidies are for local governments to consider, and if they choose not to pay them, then Ligi believes that it is only natural that those who want a “special” education should pay for it themselves. “It is only natural that a private initiative has private contributions, not just state contributions,” he added.

Ligi found that during the remaining years left before elections, the government’s job was to clearly demonstrate that one can receive a very good education from regular, public schools, and that no educational miracles or unique knowledge were to be found in private schools.

“Private school teachers are trained by the state — additional training — the state has all the know-how, and it is sustainable for society when public services are dispersed as uniformly as possible, and we have actually done a brilliant job of doing this” claimed Ligi. “If anyone wants very special treatment, they have to pay extra for it.”

The Estonian Government came to an agreement at a cabinet meeting on Thursday to continue funding private schools’ operating subsidies to the extent of 75 percent of the amount of average local operating subsidies, but which will not exceed 87 euros per student per month, through the end of 2019.

Arrangements currently in force will remain so through the end of 2016.

Editor: Aili Sarapik

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