The Knesset plenum on Tuesday held a special debate to mark the special day dedicated to equality in education and free education in Israel. MK Michael Biton (Blue and White), who initiated the special day in the Knesset, said, “There is no equal opportunity in Israel. A child’s fate is determined by the city he or she will be born in, according to the economic wealth of that city. And the economic wealth of that city is not determined by whether his parents paid or did not pay property tax. In Israel there are 260 local authorities; 200 are struggling to exist on balancing grants; 20 are very well off with a lot of income from property tax paid by businesses, and 40 are somewhere in the middle. This is more or less the division. And the basket of educational resources that are available to a child in Israel are not decided only by the minister of education, but by the municipalities as well. This is one component of the inequality.
“The second component is parent payments. We call it ‘free education,’ but numerous payments are collected from parents. We also call these payments ‘optional payments,’ when only one is mandatory – NIS 49 to insure the child. Then, there are payments for field trips, the graduation party, textbooks. These are referred to as ‘optional payments.’ Does it seem reasonable to us that textbooks are optional?” Biton asked.
MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) said, “We are talking about equality in budgets for education, which I believe is a cornerstone of a democratic country. Whatever the country gives its citizens for education should be distributed equally. There is no logic to giving one sector a certain amount and then giving another sector half or one-third or one-fourth of that amount, particularly when we are dealing with education, which is the basis of the existence of every citizen and the foundation of the Jewish People’s existence. Without education there is no evolution, no learning, no values and no morality. There is nothing without education. Everyone needs it, and the budget should be the same for everyone.”
Rabbi Eichler said the chareidi sector is discriminated against when it comes to the distribution of educational resources. “It is simply told: ‘You get less than others.’ Why? Because we educate with our traditional approach to chinuch, and this is not exactly what the Education Ministry and the State want.”
Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton (New Hope) said, “The essence of educational work is advancing equality in education, narrowing gaps and providing an opportunity to every child, wherever he or she may be. I believe that when discussing education, the first thing we want to think about is that we are truly capable of narrowing the gaps between children, between various regions and sectors, and give everyone an equal opportunity.”