Finance Committee Discusses Budgeting of Educational Institutions in Arab Society

Head of the Finance Committee Rabbi Moshe Gafni leads a Finance Committee meeting at the Knesset. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

​The Finance Committee, chaired by MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), convened on Wednesday and discussed the budgeting of educational institutions in Arab society, following a motion by MKs Iman Khatib Yassin (Ra’am) and MK Ahmad Tibi (Hadash-Ta’al).

In the discussion, MKs and field activists presented large gaps in budgeting in the Arab educational system, including building classrooms, and budgeting for institutions in recognized but unofficial education and high schools. Many difficulties were also raised with regard to teacher placement, budgets that are not transferred directly to schools, and a call to advance a plan against violence in schools in Arab society.

In response to questions regarding the implementation of multi-annual plans in the educational field in Arab society, the Finance Ministry representative said that the numbers were unavailable to him but that he would send them later. Finance Ministry and Education Ministry officials also said that all plans pertaining to education in Arab society had been budgeted in recent years, with the exception of building classrooms, where despite the efforts, authorities encountered difficulties in carrying out the construction. This argument was rejected by the MKs and representatives of Arab education.

MK Khatib Yassin said, “The issue of Arab education is such a fundamental and complex issue, that it can serve as a lever to take our society to better places, based on the assumption that education is the basic tool for coping with poverty and other difficult problems in Arab society. Regrettably, Arab education has been neglected over the years, and this also serves as a barrier to the academic world; this reflects on Arab society and Israeli society as a whole.

“In Arab education, there is the general, official system, and there is the recognized but unofficial education system. The latter mostly consists of church schools. When there were no other schools, this was the only option for students to gain an education. There was also a situation in which the official schools did not receive the attention and resources necessary to ensure proper learning, so there were many parents over the years who had the financial ability to pay so that their children would be admitted into these schools.

“The recognized but unofficial education doesn’t receive any budget. A local authority is doing a favor if it even provides land, and we’re not talking about equipment, or salaries — the teachers don’t get equal salaries to other teachers, even though they have the same certificates. This situation perpetuates the poverty, the neglect and the dropout rate in Arab society, and it needs to be addressed. The situation is even more difficult in unrecognized villages, where the students are physically unable to reach the schools because they have no transportation and no decent roads. Mothers have told me, ‘I prefer for my child to sit at home and stay alive, rather than being swept into a stream on the way to school.’ We ask for the budgeting of the five-year plan, under the Takadum plan, to be included in the upcoming budget,” said MK Khatib Yassin.

MK Tibi said, “We requested this discussion because the education issue has a broad interface within Arab society; it’s for good reason that there are three MKs here from the Ta’al faction and two from Ra’am. There are several points: The first issue is differential budgeting in high schools. Today there is a gap of NIS 5,000 between an Arab student and a Jewish student. When does the Education Ministry intend to implement differential budgeting in high schools? The second issue is infrastructure gaps — there is a shortage of thousands of classrooms in Arab society, particularly in Bedouin society. Why doesn’t the Education Ministry form a team to reduce these gaps, and why aren’t the Arab municipalities supported on this issue?

“In addition, there is the issue of the pedagogical-managerial flexibility budget that is allocated to the schools, and is supposed to be transferred directly to the school’s budget. Many principals complain that the budget is transferred to the local authorities, after which it is allocated to other uses. Another question is why the Education Ministry doesn’t lead a comprehensive program in all schools in Arab society on the issue of violence, since violence has penetrated into every school,” said MK Tibi.

Dudi Mizrahi of the Education Ministry replied about the issue of pedagogical flexibility: “In elementary schools and independent junior high schools the budget reaches the school directly, but in high schools the money reaches the owners directly because it’s not official education. If the owners are the local authority then it reaches the authority, because many institutions don’t have a bank account, and the municipality is required to allocate the funds to the school.”

In response to further questions, Mizrahi said, “As for differential funding in high schools, we have committed ourselves and the budgets have been anchored. In a three-year process we will fully implement this, and it will lead to reducing the budgetary gap between the Arab and Jewish sectors in high school.”

Chairman Rabbi Gafni asked, “How many classrooms need to be built and how much has been allocated?”

Mizrahi replied, “Between 2020 and 2027 we were supposed to receive a budget for at least 28,000 classrooms, but in practice we received [a budget] for only 18,000, so the entire system is under-budgeted. This is a top priority for the education minister.”

Committee Chairman Rabbi Gafni summed up the discussion: “According what was said here, everything is being implemented, but you know in the field that this is not the case. I am requesting to receive a list of plans that were not carried out, and all the data that was asked for here, and I will ask the MKs for a list of areas where construction can be done but hasn’t happened because of budgeting shortfalls. We will hold a follow-up meeting and delve into the details in greater depth. It sounds as though there is a gap between what the Arab MKs present from the field and the planning and implementation.”

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