€27 m deficit to switch Russian schools to teaching in Estonian next year

School. Source: Pixabay

Due to a mistake in budgeting, the Ministry of Education and Research is missing €27 million for the transition to Estonian-language education in Russian schools next year. The deficit will worsen in the future years.

The former government and the Riigikogu approved a plan to switch to Estonian language instruction in Russian schools starting September this year. The budget for the first four months of this year is €41 million. But exactly the same amount - €41 million - is earmarked in the national budget strategy for the next year, and for each year thereafter, for a total of three years.

Minister of Education and Research Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) said that this was a mistake and that the real need was €27 million more only next year and even greater in the future.

"These are scholarships for teacher training students. These are the amounts paid out in addition to the teacher's salary coefficient. /.../ They have been there all along, but it's just that their calculation has been wrong up to now. They must be calculated and accounted for differently within the national budget strategy, where €41 million is budgeted for each year, but in reality these are costs that are increasing. /.../ When planning next year's budget, the government will then have to take this into account," Kallas explained.

Exactly where the budgeting error came from remains unclear. The transition plan was drawn up by the previous government and approved by the previous parliament, together with the budget needs for the following year. Former Education Minister Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) claims that the budget was planned to grow.

"The action plan accurately shows this progressive need for money. The budget forecast is also part of the action plan. /.../ If from September 1 this year the salary increase coefficient for Estonian teachers in Ida-Viru County will be 1.5, this year it is calculated for four months, but in next year's budget it will be 12 months. Similarly, there are rising costs in contracts with universities," Lukas said.

"Tõnis Lukas, the previous government's education minister, was responsible for this. Social Democrats said at the time that such a rapid transition and the preparatory work in such a pace would inevitably result in a significant increase in costs for the government," the Social Democrats' leader, Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets, said.

"If the problem is a result of the national budget strategy and the Riigikogu adopted the strategy concurrently with the budget for the previous year, then this is an earlier mistake. They must have made a mistake when they gave their minister the wrong numbers. /.../ If the Ministry of Education has made such a major mistake in its calculations, then those who made that mistake have to figure out how to correct it," Annely Akkermann (Reform), chair of the Riigikogu's finance committee, said.

However, the coalition parties disagree on whether extra money should be given in a situation, where each minister has to find cuts in their own ministries.

"The minister will certainly have to propose how she could find the necessary amount within her own administration," said Akkermann, who believed it would be preferable to avoid a €27 million increase in the state budget.

"Rather not. The aim was still to get the state budget expenditure under control, and the ministries have, in one way or another, the task of finding cost savings," she said.

"This is a topic for state budget negotiations, as we also have essential needs in the area of internal security, the security of millions of people. And this is also a priority for the Estonian state. After all, we can evaluate the situation collaboratively," Läänemets said.


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Editor: Merilin Pärli, Kristina Kersa

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