Government Has Yet to Allocate Church Schools Promised Funds

'We will bring the matter to our mother churches in Europe, including the Holy See in Rome,' warns director of Nazareth school.

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Arab students protesting the lack of budgets for Christian schools outside of the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem September 6, 2015. Credit: Emil Salman

Half a year after a funding agreement was reached between church schools and the Education Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Social Equality Ministry, the schools have yet to receive any of the 50 million shekels ($13 million) they were promised.

At the start of the school year, some 33,000 pupils were kept out of school for a month to protest the cuts in the allocations to these Christian schools by the Education Ministry. The executive committee representing the schools claimed at the time that the ministry was trying to undermine the independence of schools that are among the most successful in the Arab community by demanding changes and reforms in the way the schools were run and budgeted.

After a month-long strike and public campaign, and the intervention of senior church leaders, President Reuven Rivlin and MKs, the sides came to an agreement to end the strike. The deal called for a one-time allocation of 50 million shekels through the Social Equality Ministry, and another 7.5 million shekels as an incentive to advance weaker students for the current school year. In return, the executive committee announced that the pupils would get back the missed days and that elementary schools pupils would get a 25 percent discount on tuition for the year.

The two sides also agreed to set up a joint committee to discuss the relationship between the church schools and the Education Ministry and the way the schools would be funded in the future. The committee is headed by former Education Ministry director-general Shimshon Shoshani and was meant to finish its work by this month. While it indeed has met several times, it has not wrapped up its discussions on all the issues, some of which remain in dispute.

Boutros Mansour, the director of the Baptist School in Nazereth and a member of the executive committee, told Haaretz that the schools have yet to see any of the promised funds. “As of yesterday the money has not been transferred even though most of the schools have upheld their commitment to reduce tuition by 25 percent as we’d promised,” he said. “We came to understandings that half the amount would be transferred by the end of 2015 and the other half by the end of March, but we’re getting close to the deadline and we haven’t gotten anything.”

Mansour said the government’s violation of the agreement would impact on the joint committee’s discussions. “This delay and procrastination undermines the trust and declarations of goodwill that there were during the strike. We will bring the matter to our mother churches in Europe, including the Holy See in Rome, and in United States to make decisions.”

The executive committee noted that the non-transfer of the funds after tuitions were lowered have generated financial difficulties for the schools. It added that it had fulfilled all the bureaucratic requirements to get the funds and yet no answer has been forthcoming.

Education Ministry sources told Haaretz the all the relevant documents were submitted to the Social Equality Ministry two months ago. The Social Equality Ministry said that the matter is being handled by the accountant-general in the Finance Ministry and it has no explanation for why the money has not been transferred. The Finance Ministry confirmed that the money had yet to be paid, and said the matter was still being discussed with the Education and Social Equality ministries.