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Minister Meshulam Nahari, sponsoring an amendment to the Education Law, believes a local government estimate that the amendment will cost NIS 400 million a year, is designed to "frighten the public." "The Union of Local Authorities doesn't want this law," Nahari said. The amendment would force local government to match Education Ministry funding for unofficial, but recognized schools, which essentially means the ultra-Orthodox school system.

"The union is not interested in changing patterns and hopes to only nurture state education." Nahari says the proposed amendment is the same as the Shoshani recommendations.

In yesterday's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert instructed ministers to accelerate implemenation of the law and Nahari said it should come to a vote soon. Nahari said the Finance, Justice and Education Ministries and the attorney general agree the bill would promote equality in education and all the reservations regard the question of local government budgets.

MK Ophir Pines-Paz said yesterday, "Education Minister Yuli Tamir should express a clear, unambiguous position on the proposal. I will try to convince Labor lawmakers to oppose the bill, which weakens state education and strengthens ultra-Orthodox education."