Feudal Moscow

The Department of Education won’t accept tens of thousands of children who do not have permanent registration in Moscow to kindergartens based on long-outdated rules with no legal status.

In Moscow tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of children keep having their right to preschool education violated. Since this problem is swept under the carpet, only personal experience will tell you that it is almost impossible to get a child into a kindergarten with registration at place of stay. When city administration claims that the issue with access to kindergartens has been resolved what they mean is, it has been resolved for “first category” kids – those who are lucky to have permanent registration in Moscow, registration at place of residence, that is.

They won’t accept children with registration at place of stay to preschool institutions on the grounds of “Temporary rules” of the Department of Education, the full name of which is “Temporary rules for filing applications for registering children, for introducing changes to existing applications and for enrolling children to state educational institutions of preschool educational programs under the Moscow Department of Education”.  

These “temporary” rules that have actually existed for 4 years now say that,

  • Parents can apply for a spot in a kindergarten only if their child is registered in Moscow;
  • Prioritized enrollment is set for children entitled to benefits, which among obviously justified categories like orphans, physically challenged children and children from large families, include children of numerous federal employees from fire-fighters and policemen to prosecutors and Federal Penitentiary Service staf
  • Advantage is given to children of “Moscow citizens” and children entitled to benefits; kids registered at place of stay stand last in the queue and can be accepted “in case of availability in educational institutions assigned based on place of registration”.

Our previously published report “On limited right to public preschool education in Moscow for children with no permanent registration” provided details about these rules that violate children’s rights to preschool education secured by the Constitution and several international agreements and about other ways to interfere with enrollment of “non-Moscow” children to kindergartens”.

But until recently we did not know a certain fact. Rules of enrollment to kindergartens which define priorities and are referred to in courts by the Department of Education representatives, are in fact doubtful, if not counter-legal which was confirmed by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation.  

These very rules need to be clarified. The full name is “Temporary rules for filing applications for registering children, for introducing changes to existing applications and for enrolling children to state educational institutions of preschool educational programs under the Moscow Department of Education” (hereinafter – “Temporary rules”). Despite the confusing word “temporary” this text was signed by the Head of the Department of Education I.I. Kalina and published on December 13, 2013, since then it has been acted upon when defining the process of enrollment to kindergartens with slight amendments from 2014. This document of unclear legal status actually moderates the procedure of enrollment and non-enrollment of children to the capital’s kindergartens. As such, these “Temporary rules” specify priority and categories entitled to benefits, establish the procedure of informing parents and the list of documents and data necessary to apply to a kindergarten. In other words, “Temporary rules” regulate a wide range of issues related to preschool education in Russia’s capital that are very important for the Russian society, parents and their children. Any well-educated lawyer will tell you upon reviewing this document that it has obnoxious formal flaws and plain misunderstandings. To say the least of the contents themselves! For one, any such text must be backed up with an order issued by a government agency or authority. But you will not find a corresponding order issued to enforce these rules. Besides, the subject matter of the “Temporary rules” had to undergo legal and anti-corruption assessment in the Ministry of Justice. When in the spring of 2018 we tried to find any results of such assessment or to look these rules up in the register of regulations, there was nothing. The most detailed and well-regarded databases had nothing on the “Temporary rules”. Moreover, the “regulation documents” webpage of the Department of Education on the Moscow Mayor’s website (https://www.mos.ru/dogm/) makes no mention of the “Temporary rules”. Altogether, finding these “Temporary rules” is a difficult task: it seems as if they are published on all websites of the Moscow Government (including the Department of Education) only under the description of the “Apply (transfer) to kindergarten” service and are hidden behind an indistinct title, “regulatory acts”.

For these reasons the Civic Assistance Committee decided to submit a request to the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation to clarify the legal status of these peculiar “Temporary rules”. Their full response, as can be seen below, uncovers a few interesting details.

So, it turns out that the Ministry of Justice, indeed, did not perform any legal or anti-corruption assessment of the “Temporary rules”. Furthermore, in September 2017 the Ministry demanded that the Department of Education provide in due course the “adopted” rules of enrollment to kindergartens but Moscow authorities refused to do so claiming “they did not have the attributes of a regulatory act”.

In addition to that, in September 2017 the Ministry of Justice asked the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office to “take responsive measures in order to provide “Temporary rules”. The Prosecutor’s office replied in a strange manner, apparently, defending Moscow public officers as “fellow authorities” by force of habit, referring to the “decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation to recognize the Temporary rules as a regulatory act”. It is not clear how the Supreme Court, though being a body of high instance in Russia but still a judicial one, can acknowledge documents as regulatory acts and ignore the legally established procedure; the Moscow Prosecutor does not explain that either. Just as he does not explain why same Department of Education doesn’t see “Temporary rules” as a regulatory act. Consultants of the Civic Assistance Committee studied the ruling of the Supreme Court, referred to by the Moscow Prosecutor, and found nothing that would prove the decision to recognize the “Temporary rules” as a regulatory act.

Nevertheless, end of 2017 the Moscow Prosecutor sent an appeal to Deputy Mayor of Moscow and Chief of the Office of the Mayor and Government of Moscow A.V.Rakova and pointed out the necessity of sending the “Temporary rules” for a legal and anti-corruption assessment. Yet, judging by the response of the Ministry of Justice, this appeal was left unanswered.

Another peculiar detail is worth noting which the Ministry of Justice wouldn’t mention. Besides the unestablished legal status of the “Temporary rules” and absence of any compulsory anti-corruption assessment results, these rules haven’t been updated since July 14, 2014 and simply contain outdated and inapplicable information. For example, the commentary to the kindergarten enrollment service still suggests applying through District offices for informational support (OSIP or “ОСИП”), describes their area of responsibility and numerous procedures they are involved in. In the meantime, these offices were disbanded back in 2015 by the Moscow Department of Education!

In other words, while the “Temporary rules” define almost all ins and outs of enrolling children to Moscow kindergartens, these rules were enforced with appalling violations of the federal legislation, didn’t get the approval of the Ministry of Justice and were never subjected to any legal and anti-corruption assessment.

They are published neither on the website of the Department of Education among legal documents, nor in complete legal databased. One can say that since these “Temporary rules” cannot be considered a legal document on formal grounds, they are of blatantly lawless nature. Maybe the Department of Education officials are simply unaware? But then they would have cancelled the “Temporary rules” after having been condemned for abuse of power and scolded by the Ministry of Justice. The Department of Education still refers to the “Temporary rules” and obliges preschool educational institutions to act upon them as well.

It appears that a senior Moscow official can sign any paper and tell his subordinates to diligently and implicitly follow the contents of said paper which would with one simple move rid tens or even hundreds of thousands of children of the constitutional right to education. Shouldn’t such an “official” be called a more appropriate name, like a “ruler” or “grand prince”?

Story by Konstantin Troitsky, Civic Assistance Committee

Translated by Elena Fedyushkina

Photo by Svetlana Vidanova