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Funding worries leave many private schools uncertain about future

Half of Estonia’s private schools do not know how or by whom they will be financially supported after 2019, when the state will no longer be providing them with support.

The new year will be bringing with it changes to private school funding. While local governments will continue to pay operating subsidies to private schools through the new year, beginning next year municipalities and towns will lose the obligation to do so, only continuing to pay the subsidies on a voluntary basis, ERR's radio news reported.

According to Ministry of Education and Research adviser Piret Sapp, this means that beginning Jan. 1, the ministry will sign a contract with each private school manager and pay operating subsidies to these private school managers directly. "The rate of support will depend on the average operating subsidy of the municipal schools in the local government in which the private general education school operates," Sapp explained.

Through the end of 2019, the state will pay 75 percent of a local government's municipal school operating subsidy. What will happen to the funding of these operating subsidies beginning in 2020, however, remains uncertain for many private schools. According to Sapp, by 2020 all local governments should have worked out the principle, as have Rakvere, Pärnu and Tartu, that if they need places for students in schools, these spaces will be supported on a similar basis as student places in municipal schools.

While the aforementioned municipal governments have said that their cooperation with and support of private schools will continue beyond the conclusion of state funding of the latter, then in the capital of Tallinn, home to 50 percent of the entire country's private schools, if and how the municipal government will provide support to private schools in the future has yet to be discussed, according to Tallinn Education Department director Andres Pajula. Not knowing, however, is making school directors insecure.

According to Tallinn Sakala Private Upper Secondary School director Jekaterina Gridneva, now is the time to enter into diaolgue with the city regarding this matter already.

"We on our part would very much like dialogue [on this subject] because private schools which have operated in Tallinn for a long time already were not established with the aim to discontinue work one day due to lack of funds," said Gridneva. "In every school there is a set number of student places which make economic sense for the school to continue operation."

In her opinion, in such a situation the school will begin, unfortunately at parents' expense, begin raising money for darker times.

"We can't just suddenly increase tuition in order to cover costs in three years," explained the Tallinn school's director. "It's better that we increase tuition now, step by step in such a way that it would be economically feasible and acceptable to parents."

Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla

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