The Knesset Education Committee approved on Wednesday guidelines for parents’ payments for school activities next year − which actually decreased slightly − but expressed anger at the higher fees the Education Ministry had set for extra-curricular hours.
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The payment schedule for school activities sets the maximum fees permitted to be charged for cultural activities, graduation parties, class parties, textbook lending, parent association contributions and trips.
The Education Ministry noted that the sum of parent payments had actually dropped by between NIS 40 and NIS 70, depending on the age of the child.
However, MKs on the committee voiced anger at the payments set for enrichment hours under the supplementary curricula plan, known by its Hebrew acronym Talan, which rose substantially. The MKs do not vote on the Talan payments, but the ministry submits them to the panel. The annual payment for a weekly hour of extra teaching rose from NIS 119 to NIS 199 for preschool; from NIS 116 to NIS 177 for primary school; from NIS 133 to NIS 212 for junior high school, and from NIS 149 to NIS 230 for high school. Schools are allowed to add up to five Talan hours a week.
Education Minister Shay Piron told the committee that the hikes were necessary because the Ofek Hadash and Oz Letmura reforms in the school system had raised teachers’ salaries. Those present at the hearing argued that this wasn’t meant to be at the parents’ expense.
Piron claimed that the system was en route to eliminating extra parent payments.
“This is one of the last times that the Education Committee will be convening to approve parent payments,” he said. “The current format is problematic, not equitable, and discriminates between populations in Israel. We want to create a situation in which public education will be the best, most successful, and of the highest quality.”
Referring to the fact that in theory, public education in Israel is meant to be free, Piron said, “The word free has only one meaning − free.” MKs on the committee noted that the education minister, whoever he or she may be,promises to do away with parent payments every year.
Piron announced that within the next two weeks, there would be special instructions issued governing payments in schools that have been designated “special schools.”
“There will be a transition year,” he said. “At the end of it, schools that have not been approved as special schools by a committee that the Education Ministry will be setting up, will not be able to collect extra payments.”
Piron said that he would also deal with the problem of payments in the state religious system, where the additional hours of Torah studies usually come at high cost to the parents.
“It’s not moral, proportional or educational to create a situation where a parent sends his child to public education and pays a price that a family can’t afford,” he said. “A study has shown that a religious-Zionist family that must put four children through high school will pay a sum equivalent to what an apartment costs.”
The minister also promised significant restrictions in four areas: Salaries paid to the heads of institutions; opening of very small schools; uncontrolled opening of new study programs without a minimum number of pupils; and a ban on signing teachers to personal contracts.
Piron also addressed the trips to Poland, saying he wasn’t sure that every teenager had to go.
“Who turned this into a rite of passage?” he asked. “Perhaps the format that once prevailed, in which schools sent representatives, was better.”
Committee chairman Amram Mitzna said that it was his impression from the few months in his post that “there is a good spirit in the Education Ministry. We believe, as did our predecessors, that parent payments have to disappear. We will find ways to realize this.”