The Education Ministry over the weekend announced that it would allocate half of the sum needed to operate the “culture basket” program in schools until the end of 2020. The rest of the money for the program comes from the local authorities and parent payments, although the amount parents will be expected to pay for the coming school year has yet to be approved by the Knesset Education Committee as required.
Education Minister Yoav Galant’s office refused to explain from what budgetary source the 8 million shekels ($2.35 million) allocated would come from or what other programs might be cut to finance the culture basket, a program that exposes high-schoolers to plays, films, music, literature, art exhibitions and dance performances. .
The culture basket is one of several extracurricular programs the Education Minister had frozen recently because of the delay in approving the state budget. Other programs whose continuation is in doubt include the Milat program, which gives pupils in outlying areas after-school help; Hila, which allows dropouts to earn a diploma or matriculation certificate; projects to prevent drug and alcohol use and various programs for at-risk teens. Thousands of employees in these programs face dismissals.
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The Knesset Education Committee has not discussed the parental payments issue because its chairman, MK Ram Shefa (Kahol Lavan) is insisting the ministry submit a plan for reducing parent payments so that they come to no more than 300 shekels per year per child. Now these parent payments range from 270 shekels to 1,300 shekels a year, depending on the child’s age. Informed sources say that the parent payments will be approved in the end, which would allow the culture basket program to go forward.
Lacking an approved 2020 budget, the law requires government ministries to operate within the confines of the last approved budget, meaning the Education Ministry has almost no budgetary flexibility. Most of the budget it has at its disposal must be used for the educational system’s fixed costs, like salaries and transportation.
Education Ministry deputy director general for finance, Dudi Mizrahi, told the education committee last week that the ministry needs 4 billion shekels to conduct enrichment programs during the coming school year. Ministry officials say 1.4 billion of that is needed immediately, for the first few months of the school year.