Drastic Budget Cut to Chareidi Schools

YERUSHALAYIM -

The Knesset Education Committee voted on Thursday to impose financial sanctions on schools that refuse to implement the core curriculum, namely chareidi schools, by a narrow one-vote, margin.

The vote was 7 to 6, with the deciding vote cast by a Jewish Home MK. According to the law, there will be a drastic cut in funding for Talmudei Torah, which have stood firm on their policy of maintaining an independent Torah curriculum, as Gedolei Yisrael have instructed.

The funding will be reduced from 55 percent of what secular schools receive to only 35 percent.

Chareidi MKs noted that current state funding really amounts to only about a third of comparable funding for schools in the general state stream (after various other programs are taken into account), such that the new cuts, if implemented, will mean that the average chareidi child will receive only 10 percent of what other children receive for their education.

The committee session was described as “stormy,” with chareidi MKs battling all day to defeat the measure. At one point, committee chairman Amram Mitzna (Movement) agreed to delete it from the Economic Adjustments Law. But Finance Minister Yair Lapid insisted that it be included.

The debate lasted from 10 in the morning until 7 at night, when voting took place. Coalition MKs carried the decision, with the vote of Jewish Home MK Shuli Mualem tipping the balance.

According to the decision, the law goes into effect on January 1, 2014, to be implemented gradually over four years, overseen by the finance minister.

United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yaakov Asher argued that this was a new issue that could not be entered into the budget law. Accordingly, it was submitted for review by the Knesset Committee to determine if the Education Committee’s act was technically viable.

There too the discussion was acrimonious, with UTJ MKs seeking a majority to disqualify the law. UTJ MK Uri Maklev pointed out that Talmudei Torah already receive meager funding.

“What do you think, that if you cut the budget, somebody will agree to learn the core curriculum? That you will cut the minimum needed for maintenance and electricity, and your hands will be clean? Already today, Talmudei Torah receive a minimal budget and are willing to live with it in order to preserve our traditional, independent education.

“What will happen in the end is that the chareidi school system will sever connections with you altogether. That is the direction you are going in.”

However, in spite of all efforts, the coalition majority prevailed, and the cutback was allowed to remain in the budget law.