TALLINN - The cultural affairs committee of the Estonian parliament on Tuesday discussed a proposal by the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) to exempt parents in all of Estonia from paying the kindergarten place fee and has sent the corresponding amendment to be discussed in the parliament on Nov. 7.
"In order to ensure that no child should stay away from kindergarten for economic reasons, the kindergarten place fee must be eliminated," member of the SDE group Heljo Pikhof said. "This step would reduce educational discrepancies and inequality. Preschool education is a part of each child's education and must also bee free of charge."
"The Riigikogu has also discussed a similar bill by SDE previously, but this time, there is reason to be much more hopeful, because the leading party in the government also supports eliminating the kindergarten place fee. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas clearly said at the end of summer that in her opinion, preschool education must be free, and in Tallinn, for instance, this was one of the pillars of the Reform Party's election campaign," Pikhof added.
Local governments can currently charge parents for a kindergarten place to the extent of 20 percent of the minimum salary. Most cities and municipalities have tied this sum to a specific percentage of the minimum salary. What also speaks in favor of eliminating the fee altogether is that it differs greatly across Estonia, according to Pikhof.
"According to an analysis of the Ministry of Finance, around three-fourths of local governments support families with many children by reducing the place fee for them or exempting them from it. Approximately two-thirds of local governments take the family's financial situation into consideration. While in many local governments, the kindergarten place fee is less than 20 euros, in Tartu, parents must pay over 80 euros each month while parents in Tallinn pay over 70 euros," Pikhof added.
Pursuant to the to bill, local governments must be compensated for their loss of revenue, which means an additional expenditure in the amount of 40 million euros for the state.