Teacher wage issue still unresolved in many schools of Latvia

As of this year, it is planned to align the salaries of kindergarten teachers with the salaries of teachers of general educational institutions. However, in several municipalities, to save money, the local authorities decide to reduce the load, and the financial situation has even deteriorated for some school teachers after the promised wage increase, Latvian Radio reported on January 10.

How to provide teachers with decent pay has been the subject of debate for years. In parallel with the timetable for wage increases, various reforms are underway so that the funding available for education can be used more efficiently.

Teachers awaited his school year with high expectations, as wage growth was promised again and, in addition, a balanced workload. This means that the total load is still 40 hours, but with reduced contact [in-class] hours and increased preparation hours. As a result, working conditions should become more favorable for teachers and pay more appropriate.

As early as autumn, teachers raised the alarm that pay had fallen by as much as several hundred euros for some instead of the promised pay rise.

Liene (name changed), works at a school in Kuldīga. She stressed that the situation has still not been resolved since the autumn.

“I have 24 contact hours and it's the maximum to have those 40 [hours]. But that shock came in late September when everyone started talking that wages would be heavily lower. Although the headmistress said, I cannot promise you more, but it won't be less. When I got the tariff, it was a shock. I really only existed for two weeks on medication. I couldn't get myself to go to work. The reality was 400 [euros] on paper, 300 in practice. It's a big minus. I can't grasp it. Everyone has their payments to make,” Liene said.

Teacher pay is made up of several components, so it's difficult to calculate it. A large part is made up of earmarked grants from the State budget, but further this depends not only on the size of the school and the wealth of the local authority, but also on the various allowances decided by the local government.. So the salary is made up of different variables, but the result is simple – for 40 hours of work this year the teacher receives several hundred fewer euros.

Liene is not the only one, but in Kuldīga municipality, there are no data on for how many teachers pay has decreased, said Lilita Matčema, deputy head of the Education Administration.

It should be noted that the situation is about to change again, as from this year teachers' salaries have to increase again – from EUR 8.50 per hour to EUR 9.54 per hour. Kuldīga says the increase will be, but not the same for everyone.

“In order not to worsen the situation against January 1, 2023, we already allowed a little more funding to be used in schools from September 1, using earmarked grant balances in some schools or to the county, than had been calculated for the first four months, which allowed for slightly higher rates to be paid in some places as of September 1, than would be the case under government regulations,” Matčema said.

Teachers are now looking forward to the January rate. Many preschool educators are also expectant, as from January 1 this year their salaries should finally align with those of general education teachers.  But in this situation too, kindergarten teachers may not get the promised comfort.

As of this year, the remuneration should exceed EUR 1,500 per load, but to be able to increase the salary also for the administration of kindergartens and technical staff, for example, the municipality of Liepāja decided to reduce the workload of kindergarten teachers. As a result, the final salary will not come as hoped. Some educators are not at peace with it.

The municipality has decided that kindergartens will work half an hour less per day. However in reality the reduction in load means a return to poorly paid preparation work. At the expense of reduced workload, kindergarten teachers' pay will increase by around €130 before taxes. So in reality the situation won't align with teachers in general education schools.

Teachers in both preschool and general education establishments will not know the new pay until the end of the month.

However, there is dissatisfaction in the sector with the work of local governments, as well as the Ministry of Education and Science (IZM), because, in the end, promises have not become a reality.

The teachers' union also stresses the responsibility of the Ministry, allowing the value of the teacher's hourly work to fall when the workload is balanced. Union leader Inga Vanaga also condemned decisions by several municipalities, including Liepāja, Dienvidkurzeme and Saldus, to reduce loads for kindergarten staff.

"It's a professional humiliation of people. They know many of them won't leave, that many like the job and are self-effacing. They're basically using it. They also understand that people in the municipality will not hold protests, there will be frustrations that will simmer down after some time. But unfortunately, it results in the information going further. And how motivating is that for a young teacher to come?" noted Vanaga.

Vanaga also condemned the reduction of quality bonuses for educators and stressed that the Union will still fight for additional funding to balance loads.

The Ministry of Education and Science has planned a new model for funding teachers' salaries.

Right now, the money follows the student to the local government. The municipality receives a targeted grant, the amount of which depends on the number of pupils, and then redistributes the money received to the educational institutions. The new model would see a reduction in the municipality's role in redistributing funding.

"The new funding model provides that an educational institution receives the full amount of funding it needs to implement specific programs. This will give transparency and predictability to the educational institution about what amount of money will be available to it," explained an IZM spokeswoman Karīna Caunīte-Orupe.

She stressed that it will be possible to ensure adequate remuneration regardless of what school or municipality the teacher is in, so the local government won't have the capacity, for example, to redistribute funding in favor of some smaller school, thus depriving the larger one. The model is still in development at the moment and could be put to public consultation at the end of January. The Ministry hopes to introduce it as early as September this year

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