Bill Would Supervise Costs of Summer Camps

Israeli kids wearing school bags for first day of school and kindergarten outside thier home in Jerusalem on August 31, 2015, The Israeli secular state education system will open tomorrow on September 1, 2015, the academic year with more than two million Israeli children. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** áéú ñôø ëéúä à ëúä úìîéã éìãä
Israeli schoolboys. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A raucous Knesset debate Monday over who should pay for summer camp programs was capped by the introduction of legislation by MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Likud) that would place supervision on the cost of camp programs run by local authorities and community centers. The supervision would determine the maximum price for summer camp programs based on a sliding scale to ensure that families are able to afford the programs.

In recent days, Yediot Aharonot reported, dozens of cities and local authorities have, of their own volition, slashed the prices for summer programs after hundreds of parents protested, in some cases keeping their children out of school to express their anger at the costs of summer programs, which in many cases comes out to as much as NIS 1,000 per week.

At a Knesset hearing Monday, Mordechai Cohen, a top official in the Local Authority, said that the Education Ministry was to blame for the high prices. He was attacked by numerous MKs, including MK David Amsalem (Likud), head of the Knesset Education Committee, who said that it was the Local Authority that had ignored directives on lowering costs. “You claim that there is no one in charge of summer programs, but then you turn around and say ‘it’s not us.’ So who should be in charge of this – the Agriculture Ministry? Just because there has been a change in government, is no reason for people to suffer,” he said.

The summer camp program provides study and play opportunities for children from grades one through six at subsidized rates. In many communities, the programs are the only affordable care option for parents of limited means during the summer, protesters at a Tel Aviv gathering protesting the high costs of summer camp were quoted as saying by Maariv.

Last year, the government decided to institute camps for children from kindergarten through third grade in all schools, but the plan has not been enacted yet because of budget issues. Parents at the Tel Aviv protest demanded that the government follow through on the decision. “Many parents are forced to part with as much as NIS 8,000 for the summer months in order to keep their children busy, and people just cannot afford it,” said a spokesperson for the protesters.