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The Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee changed the bill introduced by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) that sought to give ultra-Orthodox schools preferential treatment.

According to the original law proposal, the two existing ultra-Orthodox school systems which function independently from the state system would have received full funding of their activities instead of 75 percent.

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) also said yesterday he will campaign in favor of having the ultra-Orthodox systems adopt the state-set core curriculum which for years they have rejected.

Gafni's proposal would have given the same funds to ultra-Orthodox schools currently budgeted to their state counterparts, without them agreeing to any state supervision. His bill also made a distinction between the two ultra-Orthodox systems and other independent schools.

Committee chairman MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) joined forces with Sa'ar to repeal Gafni's proposal. "We've managed to prevent state education from being harmed," Orlev said.

Einar Huruvitz of the Israel Religious Action Center said the new version of the bill was an improvement. "It stops the discrimination in favor of the ultra-Orthodox which existed in the original version," she said. "It's important that the Knesset stay on guard and make sure the current amendment won't rid the ultra-Orthodox schools from teaching their pupils the core curriculum."

During the Knesset committee's meeting Sa'ar continued to address the contentious issue of the ultra-Orthodox schools accepting the state-set core curriculum.

"So long as there is an indication that a school is not teaching the core curriculum as it should, I will take action to make sure they shall," Sa'ar said. The Education Ministry threatened yesterday that funds will be cut off from schools that ignore the core curriculum.

Israel has four education tracks: State and state-religious offer an education in Hebrew to secular, traditional and Orthodox Jews; Arab schools teach pupils in Arabic with an emphasis on Arab culture and history and ultra-Orthodox schools cater to the growing Haredi community.