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A prominent educator vehemently condemned the "Gafni bill" as a strike against public education and equality.

The bill, proposed by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), stipulates that the only private schools that will receive government funding are the Independent Education Institutes affiliated with Gafni's party and the Maayan educational network affiliated with Shas. Those educational networks are recognized by the government, but not categorized as state educational institutions.

"You must fulfill your legal and public duty and halt the Gafni Law, which severely undermines the basic legal principle of equality," said Dr. Aviad Hacohen, the dean of Sha'arei Mishpat College in Hod Hasharon and head of the legislative committee of the education advocacy organization Hakol Hinuch, in a letter to the Knesset Education Committee chairman and the attorney general.

"Failing to act on this issue is tantamount to accepting a revolution in Israeli education that makes private education preferable to state education," he said.

As Haaretz reported June 29, the bill would add NIS 95 million to the budget of local municipal authorities, which would have to fund all of the schools' administrative and maintenance expenses.

The proposal also calls for canceling government aid to state-recognized, non-public educational networks - including national-religious and Arab schools, which currently receive 75 percent of their funding from the government.

'Erosion of public education'

"This bill is inappropriate because it further erodes the status of public eduction, contrary to the dictates of the law and accepted policy in the State of Israel," wrote Hacohen.

The bill "strikes a heavy, disproportionate blow to equality," he said, referring to the other recognized but non-public educational networks.

Rabbi Shai Piron, the head of Hakol Hinuch, said, "The intention of receiving 100 percent from the state without giving anything in return is unethical and unacceptable anywhere in the world. This is a complete dismantling of the public education system."

The Education Ministry responded, "We oppose raising funding beyond the level stipulated by law regarding local authorities' participation both in ultra-Orthodox networks and any other institution classified as 'recognized but non-public.'"