Daily Israel Report

Saar: Public Schools First Priority for Education Spending

Education Minister Gidon Saar says Israel must put public schools first – even at the expense of hareidi-religious and Arab schools.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 9/21/2009, 6:33 PM

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Education Minister Gidon Saar has proposed new protocols aimed at ensuring that public schools remain the top recipients of government funding. The new rules would allow ministry officials to reject other schools' requests for funding even if the schools meet all of the relevant guidelines.

Under the proposed rules, the Education Minister would be allowed to turn down schools asking to be categorized as a “recognized non-public school” - a definition that would make them eligible to have up to 75 percent of their budget covered by the government – in order to prevent public schools from losing funds. Currently, any non-public school that meets the criteria for recognition is recognized, regardless of the financial implications for public schools.

The new bill would allow schools that meet the criteria to be turned down if ministry officials fear that opening a recognized non-public school would lead to the closure of a public school or classes within a public school, or would lead to a drop in enrollment in public schools, or would lead to layoffs in the public school system.

Saar has begun a round of consultations with other education officials to draft his planned bill.

Currently, 52 percent of Israel's schoolchildren learn in public schools, in both the secular and religious streams. Twenty-eight percent learn in separate schools within the Arab sector, and 20 percent learn in hareidi-religious schools.

Saar has stated that the proposed bill will not target hareidi-religious schools, almost all of which fall into the category of “recognized non-public schools.” However, he has not promised that either system will be immune from losing funding under his proposal, and hareidi-religious lawmakers are expected to oppose the plan.