Some Ida-Viru schools applied for bonuses for teachers without Estonian skills

Coalition negotiation press conference March 21, 2023.
Coalition negotiation press conference March 21, 2023. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The payment of the salary supplement promised to teachers who have gone to work in Ida-Viru County is delayed because some schools applied for extra money for staff who have even been fined for poor Estonian language skills, Education and Research Minister Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) said.

Although qualified Estonian-speaking teachers were promised a salary of €2,624 to work in Ida-Viru County, their salaries at the beginning of October were based on the national minimum teacher salary of €1,749 and did not include a bonus.

Local municipalities and state schools provided data on teachers eligible for bonuses in September, according to Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200). It appears that these facts are inaccurate.

"As we had to check the data, countless applications for teachers or personnel who do not qualify for the measure have been submitted," Kallas said.

To be eligible for a wage bonus of up to €874, teachers must work in Estonian and have the necessary language abilities. However, according to the minister, the additional funds were also applied for, e.g., 20 support specialists whose records showed that they worked in Russian.

"Similarly, we had a problem when it came out that 10 teachers who applied for extra pay had actually received an injunction from the language office to improve their language skills, or a penalty payment, indicating that they did not meet the language requirements," she said.

Moreover, many teachers work in more than one school at the same time and are reported by both, implying that some teachers have a workload equivalent to two full-time positions. In such circumstances, the Ministry of Education needs to clarify with the schools the true workload of the teachers and the primary locations where they work.

The ministry is currently tidying up the teachers' records and will only be able to pay the bonuses after that. According to Kallas, it would be considerably worse if payments were handed out immediately, but then demanded back when the checks were completed.

When asked if the actions of those schools that attempted to get extra money for a teacher who did not speak Estonian could be considered fraudulent, Kallas responded that it seems fraudulent; the head of the school should be aware that the teacher has been given language requirement notification or even a penalty payment, yet he or she remains on the salary application form.

"Similarly, regarding the 20 or so support specialists working in Russian who do not actually work in Estonian, but in Russian, the question is why they have done so, hoping that the ministry will not check and will blindly make payments based on the local authority's or school's application," she said.

According to Kallas, checking the database will take much less time in the future, as only new applications will need to be reviewed.

Kallas did not want to identify the municipalities in which fraudulent attempts to claim additional funds were made, and she emphasized that the vast majority of schools and municipalities submitted all of their data accurately and did not attempt to obtain additional funds under false pretenses. She apologized to the schools that had completed their duties accurately, explaining that they too would have to wait until all the details were in order and all payments could be were made simultaneously.


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Editor: Karin Koppel, Kristina Kersa

Source: "Uudis+", interviewer Arp Müller

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