Group Demands End to Separate School Classes

A secularist group is demanding that the government stop funding religious schools with separate classes for boys and girls.

David Lev ,

Religious school
Religious school

A secularist group on Monday filed a petition with the High Court demanding that the state halt funding to schools that maintain separate classes for boys and girls. The group, called “Free Israel,” said that the state was not permitted to provide funding for educational programs that are, in its words, "discriminatory."

The petition was aimed at schools in the public religious school system, which are fully funded by the Education Ministry.

There is no such thing as “separate but equal” in education, the group wrote in its petition.

“Separate classes cannot be equal in their nature, as classes for either boys or girls will have different numbers of students, different quality teachers, and different budget needs.” In addition, the extra budgets given to the religious schools to provide separate services for separate classes discriminate against secular schools, which do not have the opportunity to “double bill” the government, the petition said.

The petition also demands to know whether the deal to fund separate classes came as the result of a political deal between Education Minister Shai Piron and the heads of the religious education system, so the latter would support his bid for the office. Piron is observant himself, the group said, which by itself casts suspicions on his motives.

Mickey Gitzin, director of Free Israel, said that “we agree with Minister Piron that schools must educate for values,” one of the reasons Piron supports the separate class program in religious schools.

“We are therefore puzzled why the Minister, a member of Yesh Atid, would choose to fund separate schools. This decision is unacceptable from a values point of view, but there is also a strong likelihood that students in non-separate classes will be discriminated against.”