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Education minister: Võrklaev's suggestion would mean cutting research funds

Kristina Kallas.
Kristina Kallas. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonian Minister of Education Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) does not support the suggestion made by Minister of Finance Mart Võrklaev (Reform) to use unspent money from the Ministry of Education and Research's budget to raise teachers' salaries this year, as those funds have already been allocated for basic research funding and grants. Kallas said the money could instead come from public sector bonuses.

"This is research money that was allocated to a center for the green turn during Jüri Ratas' government. There is both short-term funding, or investment funds, and long-term funds. As this green investment center is no longer being planned, because the applied research center is now up and running in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, this research money was not used last year, and so this year, in 2024, we channeled it into basic research funding, universities and research grants," Kallas told ERR.

"Essentially, this would mean that we are taking money away from science again, and would actually mean we drop below one percent in science funding, which is why I do not agree with it," she added.

According to Kallas, such a move would also be against the law, as the State Budget Act states that funds transferred may only be used for the purpose for which they were originally budgeted.

"Cutting basic research funding and grant money in order to raise teachers' salaries is simply not right. It doesn't make sense," said Kallas.

Kallas said she still believes the solution to the situation would be to find the money  to fund a year's €10.8 million pay rise for teachers this year, which she believes will also bring an end to the strike.

"However, since the finance minister did not come up with any other proposal than to take it from the research money, we are currently looking for ways to identify where the €10.8 million could come from," Kallas said.

"Grants are one of the things that the Social Democratic Party (SDE) has also proposed and I think it is the right thing to do," the minister added.

Kallas said she had agreed with the teachers' union on Monday to begin long-term negotiations, and on Friday an invitation will also be sent to local authorities to start collective bargaining.

"All the reforms that the prime minister talked about yesterday on 'Aktuaalne kaamera' and that I myself have talked about during my time as minister will be on the table," Kallas said.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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