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Financing ECEC

A growing body of research evidence suggests the need for significant public financial investment supporting a sustainable and equitable ECEC system (oECD, 2006; Bennett, 2008b; Cleveland and Krashinsky, 2004; uNICEF, 2008). Latvia’s public commitment to ECEC is demonstrated by its relatively high expenditure on ECEC as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) and the large share of public funding.

In 2011, Latvia spent 0.83% of its GDP on early childhood education for children aged 3 or older. This was above the OECD average (0.57%) and among the highest for the OECD and partner countries with available data. Of these countries only Denmark (1.41%), Iceland (0.96%) and Spain (0.93%) had higher expenditures (Figure 2.1). The greatest share of spending for this age group came from public sources (98.2%), with only a very small proportion originating from private sources (1.8%), mostly from private households (OECD, 2014a).

Public funding comes from municipalities, apart from the salaries of teachers working in compulsory ECEC programmes, i.e. for 5- and 6-year-olds, which come from central government grants. These grants amounted to EUR 23 791 537 in 2015, which is about 7% of the total earmarked grants provided by the central government to municipalities (MoES, 2015).

Parents have to pay fees to cover children’s meals. Meals are provided three times a day (breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks) at a low cost, about EUR 44 per month. Some charges may be made for additional services, for instance, foreign language teaching for children. Municipalities may reduce the fees for meals for children from low-income families, and most of those in rural areas do (Eurypedia, 2015; European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice/ Eurostat, 2014; MoES, 2015). Since 2013, the central and local government have financed learning tools such as different training materials, books and workbooks. Parents pay only for items children use personally such as pencils, crayons and paper. The learning materials for 5- and 6-year-olds are financed from central and local government budgets, but those for 1.5-4 year-olds from the local government budget.

Figure 2.1. Expenditure on pre-primary education (for children 3 years and older) as a percentage of GDP, by source of funding (2011)

Countries are ranked in descending order ofpublic and private expenditure on educational institutions.

Source: oECD (2014a), Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators, oECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2014-en.

Private, fee-based ECEC institutions have grown in numbers in recent years as a response to shortages of public ECEC places. These institutions are mostly found in the larger cities where these shortages are acute. The high cost of private ECEC services and the lack of municipal support have limited access to ECEC until recently. When access to ECEC became a legal entitlement from the age of 1.5 in 2011, the various policy measures that followed have aimed to expand and diversify the ECEC services available (financially and territorially) to families in all parts of the country (ivanovs, 2013).

As a result, parents who are forced to enrol their children in private ECEC due to a shortage of public places can obtain co-financing from the local government and/or central government (MoES, 2015). Since the beginning of 2013, municipalities which are unable to provide children in their administrative territory with a place in a public ECEC institution, are required to partly fund a private ECEC place. Parents are provided with an allowance ranging from EUR 70 to a maximum of EUR 260 per month, with the higher range mostly paid in city areas like Riga where private ECEC fees are higher.

in 2013 the government also initiated a pilot project giving parents financial support from the central government to enrol their children in private ECEC (Box 2.2) (ivanovs, 2013; MoES, 2015).

Box 2.2. “Childcare support and child-minder service” pilot project

on 1 September 2013 the Latvian government started a pilot project to provide financial support for parents who need child care support for their children aged 1.5-4 years who are not benefiting from public childcare (from the age of 5, municipalities have a legal obligation to provide pre-school education to children). The financing will be provided until the end of 2015 in order to solve the problem of long waiting lists for public kindergarten registration and help parents to return to work at the same time providing safe conditions for the child.

The combined co-funding paid for by the state and by local government to the child should be enough to decrease parents’ expenditure on private kindergartens or child-minding services. Central government support for full-time child care is up to EUR 142, with the condition that state and municipal support combined (most municipalities already provide some support addressing such situations) does not exceed a certain limit. For example it cannot exceed EUR 228 per child in Riga planning region and approximately EUR 185 in other regions and rural territories. The state spent close to EUR 8.8 million in 2013 and 2014 and has allocated another EUR 4.8 million for 2015.

Sources: MoES (2015), “Country background report Latvia”, unpublished, MoES (Ministry of Education and Science), Riga; European Commission (2013c), “Exchange of good practices on gender equality: Comments paper - Latvia”, Parenting in France, 5-6 November 2013, France, http://ec.europa. eu/justice/gender-equality/files/exchange_of_good_practice_fr/lv_comments_paper_fr2013_en.pdf.

 
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