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Võrklaev: Education minister could have found money for teachers last week

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Mart Võrklaev.
Mart Võrklaev. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Estonian Minister of Finance Mart Võrklaev (Reform) has reiterated that the extra €10.8 million needed to increase teachers' pay would be found from the Ministry of Education and Research's transferable funds. Võrklaev added that he believes the education minister could have already found the money last week.

"Since the Ministry of Education and Research has such a large amount of carry-over funds, it would have been possible to actually allocate the money to teachers last week," Võrklaev told ERR.

"I also asked the Ministry of Finance's officials to help. They met yesterday morning and we can see that these so-called unused funds have increased from €47 million to €93 million in a year," Võrklaev added.

Minister of Education and Research Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) has said that the so-called "carry-over" funds mentioned by Võrklaev are earmarked for basic research funding and grants this year. Using them to pay teachers would mean taking money away from research.

Kallas announced on Tuesday that Eesti 200 and Social Democratic Party (SDE) ministers are prepared to make a total of €5.7 million in cuts from the ministries they head in order to use the funds to raise teachers' minimum salaries by €17 a month. Kallas was hopeful that this could be enough to end the strike.

According to Võrklaev, he told Kristina Kallas on Monday evening that officials continue to believe the money could be available from within the Ministry of Education and Research.

"Kristina Kallas promised to talk to her people, to look internally. And I'm glad that she found the money there," said Võrklaev.

Võrklaev added that Kallas had not presented plans detailing where exactly the €5.7 million would be taken from.

"Last night she said that there was no money and I kept suggesting it could be taken from the Ministry of Education and Research. By this morning it turns out that it is [there], though apparently it is hoped that other ministries will contribute as well. We will now hear what the agreement consists of," said Võrklaev.

Kallas: Education crisis ought to b tackled by government as a whole

Kristina Kallas told ERR on Tuesday that she and Võrklaev have different views on how to solve the education crisis.

"I understand that the finance minister's position is that it is not possible to allocate additional funds from the state budget, so the money for the teachers' pay rise has to be found from the existing funds," Kallas said.

"As a rule, the existing funds have all been allocated. And since this is an education-related issue, it is therefore the education budget that must also be used to solve this problem. This is where we have a different understanding of it, whether the crisis we have at the moment in the education sector is an issue that can only be solved f the budget lines of the Ministry of Education." She added.

"I say that is not the case, and it is still an issue for the government as a whole regarding how to solve this crisis."

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Editor: Michael Cole

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