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A proposal to transfer NIS 50 million directly to Arab communities in order to bolster the levels of education there is being met with opposition at the Education Ministry. This comes at a time when Education Minister Yuli Tamir is considering the renewal of a five-year plan to improve education levels in Arab schools in Israel.

Senior ministry sources and members of the Arab Monitoring Committee on education say that Tamir is considering authorizing the transfer of budgets for Arab education directly to the institutions. However, officials at the ministry are concerned that in such a move, the funds will be misused by the Arab local authorities.

"There is still no final decision on how the [five-year] plan will be implemented, or how the funds will be dispersed," Tamir said.

Since 2001, the Education Ministry has had a five-year plan in place aiming to improve the levels of education in the Arab community. The program includes various support activities for pupils, training for education staff, and developing advanced work environments in the form of computer labs, science laboratories, libraries, and other specialized function areas.

Over the past seven years, NIS 280 million were invested in the project, and sources in the Education Ministry say that for the coming year NIS 50 will be made available.

"We asked that the budget be given directly to the schools and not through external bodies," said Nabih Abu Salah, chairman of the Monitoring Committee for educational affairs.

He said that the way funding was being provided did not contribute to an improvement in education levels in the Arab community. As a result, Abu Salah said, Tamir agreed to freeze the tender for external firms to run the new five year plan.

But this is opposed by officials at the ministry, who say that "in view of the budgetary difficulties in most Arab local authorities, we are concerned that the funds will 'disappear' and will be used for other purposes."