'Children belong to the government, it's not a private matter'

Women's organizations push government to offer free preschool for babies over three months, mandatory schooling for those over three years.

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Gil Ronen ,

Will the government tear him from his parents?
Will the government tear him from his parents?
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Israeli feminist organizations this week proposed a new law which would turn Israel back into the kibbutz society of 80 years ago, where children grew up in children's homes instead of with their parents.

The proposal was put forth as an article in the leftist newspaper Yediot Aharonot, in cooperation with the Israel Women's Network (IWN) and the New Israel Fund.

IWN member Yaara Man recently published a report on early education.

The article's title read, "The state says your children aren't ours." According to the author, the current policy encourages a high birth rate and even subsidizes fertility treatments, but only provides aid "until the children are born."

The article argues that the Israeli government should treat daycare for children as young as three months old in the same manner as primary and secondary school education, with full state funding for both extended maternity and paternity leave, as well as greater subsidies for daycare centers.

"The IWN report concentrates on early education, but that's just the first step," Man explained, describing the bureaucratic process she and her colleagues envision. "We need to ensure that the longer school days will really happen, will really be long, and will apply to everyone. We need to supervise early childhood education. We need to build an education system which provides a more comprehensive solution."

"The other side of this equation is the job market. We need to reduce the number of hours we work, and give parents more vacation days.

"If parents currently pay 80% of the cost of childcare, and the government pays 20%, at the very least those proportions should be switched. We pay huge sums of money. It's not just about the financial cost of the afternoon programs, which are basically babysitters with no educational content.

"The government is responsible for the education, security, and health of the children it encourages us to bring into this world. These are the basics. We will apply public pressure. This report will be given to the Knesset and the government, and based on it, we will initiate discussions in the Knesset, and meet the relevant professionals. Without public pressure, without the public's insistence, nothing will change."

MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) hurried to embrace both the report and the article.

"Children are our future, and the future of our society and country," Michaeli tweeted. "They are not a private issue."

"Enough with the neglect! It's time the government invest in our children accordingly. I have already proposed several laws regarding equal parental leave of one year after a baby is born. I have already pushed for a longer school day. The proposal to protect children and their parents is on its way. This is our most important investment."

The law Michaeli is referring to is an amendment to the Mandatory Education Law submitted in 2015. The amendment, if passed, would mandate free education for all children over the age of three months.

Aside from funding day care attendance for children three months and up, the proposal also requires all children from the age of three years to attend daycare.

Free for three-year-olds since 2011, the Mandatory Education Law has mandated schooling for children ages 3 and up since September 2015.

However, not every municipality enforces mandatory schooling for 3-year-olds.

According to the proposal, "when the [2011] amendment was made and began to include children aged three and up, it was decided to apply the law gradually, over a period of six years."

However, the bill notes that "until now, the law has been applied only partially, applying to only a third of 3- and 4-year-old children. Application of the law to the entire population was rejected time and again....full application of this guideline will be completed only during the coming school year [of 2018-2019]."








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