The Education Ministry published a directive on Tuesday permitting certain specialized schools to charge parents additional fees.
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For years, many so-called “private” schools – which are actually partly funded by the state – have illegally charged per-student fees of up to 1,000 shekels ($287) a month or even more, while the ministry turned a blind eye. Now, the ministry is effectively legalizing the fees charged by these institutions, which include democratic, anthroposophist and arts schools.
The new rules allow the schools to offer 10 to 15 extra hours of teaching a week (depending on the grade level,) with the maximum annual cost per student ranging from 885 shekels in the first four grades to 2,300 shekels in grades ten through twelve.
In addition, high schools that offer matriculation-level courses in specialized subjects like art or sports can charge annual per-student fees of 750 shekels per course, up to a ceiling of 1,500 shekels for students taking more than one course. High schools can also charge students up to 400 shekels per year if they offer at least eight weekly hours of after-school instruction.
Additionally, all schools can charge the usual fees to cover field trips, meals and so forth, which run to slightly over 1,000 shekels a year.
Altogether, therefore, a specialized high school could charge over 5,000 shekels a year for every student.
Attorney Haran Reichman, who heads the Clinic of Education Policy at Haifa University’s law school, blasted the new rules.
“Regrettably, the Education Ministry has for the first time granted legal validity to the existence of [separate] schools for rich and poor within the state system itself, while also enabling people with means to buy a better matriculation certificate for their children,” he said. “At a time when the Israeli public has discovered the dangers of private medical services, we are witnessing a legal seal of approval for private educational services within the public system ... that will cause great harm to equality and to weak population groups.”
This is particularly worrying, Reichman added, because a wealth of data shows that Israel has some of the highest educational gaps between rich and poor in the developed world.