Education Minister Shay Piron pledged Monday that young women doing national or civilian service would be assigned to preschools with more than 20 children, beginning in 2015.
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According to an Education Ministry statement, implementation will begin this year as a pilot in 450 preschools (ages 3 to 4) throughout the country.
The ministry said that more than 1,200 aides will serve in the preschools, and another 400 will join them in the 2016 school year, covering all official preschools by then.
According to the plan, which will cost some 44 million shekels ($12.6 million), the young women will undergo training and, thanks to an arrangement with teachers’ colleges, will be able to take some courses for academic credit (if they go on to study education after they are released).
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), who had called for the Knesset Education Committee meeting on the matter a month ago, said Monday, “Typically for this government, the Education Minister identifies the problem but did not provide a solution. The lack of an additional aide in preschools, especially since the free preschools from age 3 started, is acute. But it shouldn’t be resolved by using national service girls. The preschools are in dire need of at least one more staff person, full-time and at full pay. It’s a pity that instead of demanding the additional funding needed, the minister chooses the easy and insufficient solution.”
In the committee meeting, it emerged that reforms resulting from the social protests of 2011 – mandating free preschool from age 3, beginning last year – have meant that not all cities and towns have the budget to pay for preschool aides.
For example, in Rosh Ha’ayin, aides were provided until December, when funding for the positions was cut. In Jerusalem, aides were funded last year, but this year no funding was allocated, and aides are provided this year only in special cases. The Kiryat Ono Municipality has announced officially that it would be funding preschool aides for another two months only. Meanwhile, wealthier cities such as Tel Aviv, Ra’anana and Givatayim are still funding all their preschool aide positions.
A representative of the Education Ministry told the committee that some 6,200 preschools were underfunded.
A preschool aide at the meeting told the committee that her fellow aides “were collapsing. They can’t manage with 35 children, 15 of whom are still in diapers. They spend all their time changing diapers.” The aide said that before free preschool from age 3 went into effect, children were not accepted until they were toilet-trained.