Madis Kallas: Increasing teacher pay cannot cost rural school closures

Madis Kallas.
Madis Kallas. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Madis Kallas writes that if the state finds ways to increase teacher pay, it must also find funds for municipalities and towns to increase their kindergarten teacher salaries.

Education must be available outside of cities. If a person has chosen to live in a big city or a small town in Estonia, basic things such as a primary school, a kindergarten, a shop, a sense of security, or electricity must be guaranteed. This is the only way to motivate people to return to their countryside roots from living in cities.

No one seems to doubt that educators in Estonia merit a salary increase. It is also expected that the teacher salary increase will lead to a proportionate rise in the pay of school support staff, teachers in kindergartens and hobby schools.

However, while the increase in teachers' salary will come from the national budget, the increase in other educators' pay will have to be paid by local governments.

Municipalities are already in a precarious position, and any further strain on finances will have to come at the expense of something else. Due to a lack of money, smaller communities have been already struggling to keep nurseries, kindergartens and schools operational.

State support is critical to preventing local governments from being forced to make tough budgetary decisions about teacher salary increases. Larger municipalities, like as Tartu and Tallinn, will be able to support themselves, but smaller municipalities will have even more challenging choices to make.

I am glad that, at the end of the summer, the government decided to create a separate support measure for rural schools. We needed to secure more public money for six-grade schools (elementary school, grades one through six – ed.). In this manner, we also help local government leaders who are facing nothing but bad cuts to balance their budgets.

It goes without saying that every place in Estonia should be a pleasant place to live. As I said before, the presence of schools and kindergartens is the foundation of life in rural areas. It will be impossible to discuss cultural centers, libraries or a social system reform without a new generation of young people.

If the state can find ways to raise teacher salary, we must also find money for towns and municipalities to raise kindergarten teacher salaries. The same is true for teachers in non-formal education. Every teacher is essential to our educational system. All instructors are vital to Estonia, and these talks cannot take place in isolation.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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