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The Knesset yesterday passed an amendment to the State Education Law that will bar schools from replacing its textbooks before they have been used in classrooms for five years.

The law's sponsor, Shas faction whip Yakov Margi, says it "will reduce the economic burden entailed in purchasing textbooks, will enable handing on textbooks on from one year to another, as well as selling and buying used textbooks."

Margi said the law will prevent a school principal from changing books "merely because he wants to do somebody a favor," and help families who spend NIS 800 a year on books.

Similar regulations already have appeared in a circular from the Education Ministry director general, but Margi says that parents have complained these are not being enforced. He is certain that schools will obey now it has become the law.

Margi presented his bill in the previous Knesset term, prompted by a school pupil assigned to him throughout Young Parliamentarian Day.

The legislative amendment will apply also to the so-called recognized unofficial school networks, which means ultra-Orthodox schools run by various streams.

There are, however, several exceptions to the textbook replacement rule. One is in the event that the Education Ministry cancels approval of a textbook in use. Schools will also be able to apply to the ministry for special permission to replace a textbook because of a new curriculum or for other reasons.

Coalition chair Eli Aflalo (Kadima) had proposed a similar bill, but it moved through legislative channels more slowly so was not attached to Margi's bill. He complained that textbook publishers make a minor change and slap on a new cover. "Our job as legislators is not to look out for the publishers, with all due respect, but for the children and families," he said at a Knesset Education Committee discussion.

The chair of that committee, Rabbi Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad), yesterday said he hopes the new law will make things a little easier for parents. He added that it is part of a series of laws the committee is promoting with the aim of alleviating the financial burden on parents. "Every parent can now pick up the phone and call the Education Ministry, armed with the new law," Melchior said.