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Kristina Kallas: Finance minister proposed taking teacher wage hike funding from my ministry

Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200).
Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Finance Minister Mart Võrklaev's (Reform) suggestion that around €10 million needed to cover teacher wage hikes for this year should come from the Ministry of Education and Research budget alone has met with pushback from the education minister, Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200), herself.

Appearing on ETV morning show "Terevisioon" Monday, on day one of a nationwide teachers' strike, Minister Kallas said: "At the cabinet meeting last Thursday, Finance Minister Mart Võrklaev proposed taking money from the funding of science to put towards a wage rise for teachers."

"I certainly am not in support of that, as we have a corresponding agreement from 2018, so let's not break this agreement."

"With this [proposal], we would be creating a new crisis, elsewhere," the minister went on.

Kallas, as an Eesti 200 member, conceded that she has had many differences of opinion with Minister Võrklaev, from the Reform Party, mostly over the latter's view that the funding for teacher wage rises should come from the education ministry's budget.

She said: "It cannot be the case that it is solely the Ministry of Education which makes cuts and forgoes bonuses, but the other ministries continue to pay bonuses and raise salaries. That would not be the right thing to do. We should agree at government level that when there are difficult times in the state, cuts will affect the operational costs at all ministries."

Social Democrats (SDE) leader Lauri Läänemets, who is also the interior minister, suggested at the weekend deriving the required €10 million for teacher wage hikes for this year by diminishing bonuses and awards at all ministries.

"Terevisioon" host Katrin Viirpalu asked Kallas why the Reform Party, the largest party in the coalition, had been so inflexible on the teachers' wages issues so far.
Kallas was unable to say exactly why, adding that: "There has been the argument that there is a lot of funding in education, and more than is spent on national defense. But in my opinion, making a comparison and contrast with defense spending in this way is not appropriate."

Daily Postimees reported Sunday that Finance Minister Võrklaev had sent propositions on finding the €10 million estimated as needed for teacher wage hikes this year, and that these drew from the education ministry's own budget.

Mart Võrklaev. Autor/allikas: Ken Mürk/ERR

Võrklaev said: "At the same time, funds could at least in part be used from that proportion the Ministry of Education has not put towards goals set out in the budget. I hope that the minister of education has read these proposals, and can offer teachers some solutions."

ERR has requested the minister make the above proposals public.

Last week, rectors at Estonia's public universities condemned a suggestion to redirect money earmarked for higher education to raise teachers' salaries calling it "unacceptable."

While the proposal had been laid at Reform's door at that point, Kristina Kallas was naming the source of that proposal more specifically during her appearance on "Terevisioon."

On Monday, the Federation of Estonian Student Unions (EÜL) made a similar statement.  

Katariina Järve, head of the EÜL, said: "The hole in the budget for teacher salary increases must not be covered at the expense of the already underfunded higher education, as the field of education as a whole is the most important aspect of Estonia's future."

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Urmet Kook

Source: 'Terevisioon.' host Katrin Viirpalu.

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