Parents See Political Meddling in Decision to Keep Class Open Despite Low Enrollment

Parents say Yisrael Beiteinu has been exercising unwarranted ministerial authority in local educational affairs.

Parents in Petah Tikva say the Education Ministry is trying to keep a first grade class open against the city's wishes because of political considerations.

The city education department informed the principal of the Gordon school that because only 13 children registered for first grade there, there would be no incoming first grade class there.

girl - Nir Keidar - 24082011
A girl standing outside the Gordon school in Petah Tikva Thursday.Nir Keidar

Parents of the children recently received letters informing them that the children would be enrolled elsewhere instead.

The local municipal education department informed the principal of the Gordon school that the decision was a joint one made by the municipality and the Education Ministry. However, the Education Ministry contends there will be an incoming first grade class.

The ministry has been accused of insisting on admitting an incoming first grade class due to political pressure from the Yisrael Beiteinu party. The Gordon school has been a source of some controversy in recent years, with some parents characterizing it as a school for students from a Russian immigrant background where preferential conditions apply, including longer hours and smaller classes.

The municipal parents' committee supports the city's position not to admit an incoming first grade class. The vice chairman of the committee, Eli Mor, said the handling of the matter by the Education Ministry was motivated by political considerations.

Citing the case of another school in Petah Tikva that the city sought to close where many of the students were of Ethiopian background, he asked how "with the wave of hand" that school could be closed "because it is an Ethiopian ghetto, while at the same time [the Education Ministry] leaves open a Russian ghetto."

"The Ethiopians don't have political power like Yisrael Beiteinu," Mor said, referring to the political party which draws much of its support from the Russian-speaking public. "[Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avidgor] Lieberman picks up the phone and [Education Minister] Gideon Sa'ar folds," he said.

The Education Ministry said in response in part that the municipality's decision not to admit an incoming first grade class was made without involving the ministry. "This decision, a week before the opening of the school year, is an underhanded move that is not acceptable to the ministry. All of the decisions at the ministry on the subject were made at the professional staff level without any connection to local politics in Petah Tikva or in general," the ministry said.

More than 40 parents of children who live outside the area served by the Gordon school asked to transfer their children there. The Petah Tikva Municipality said only 13 prospective first graders were from the Gordon district and some of the transfer requests to Gordon would have resulted in too few children in the classes from which the children were transferring.

A response from Yisrael Beiteinu was unavailable at press time.