Brunt of Education Cuts to Fall on Israel's Elementary Schools

Plans to create afternoon programs and to reduce classroom size to be nixed as part of NIS 1.5 billion cut to Education Ministry budget.

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The brunt of the NIS 1.5 billion in budget cuts slated for the Education Ministry in 2013-14 is likely to be aimed at a host of special projects that had been planned for elementary school-age students, treasury officials said Sunday.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s original plan had called for about NIS 750 million of the spending cuts to come from ordinary teaching hours, but he has met resistance from unions representing elementary and secondary school teachers as well as the legal problems involved with laying off teachers after May.

Instead, some NIS 800 million of the spending cuts in education will come from freezing or rescinding plans to create afternoon programs for children ages three through nine, the officials said.

Another NIS 250 million will be saved by cancelling a plan to reduce classroom size in the first and second grades for instruction in Hebrew and arithmetic that would have come from adding extra teachers and instructional hours.

“Education is important to all of us but in the current economic situation that’s been created we have no choice but to sacrifice some sacred cows,” said one official involved in the plans that have been discussed over the last several days.

Some of the savings would come from other areas, including NIS 300 million by cancelling plans to reduce classroom sizes in junior and senior high schools, today among the most crowded in the West. Some NIS 350 million will be saved by putting off plans to build new classrooms and renovate and better equip old ones, officials said. 

Students taking an exam.Credit: Moti Milrod

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