Israel Mulls Dramatic Change by Charging Parents for High School Classes

'The free education law will become meaningless,' one source said of the Education ministry's alleged plan

File photo: An Israeli high school class in Bnei Brak in 2014
Tomer Appelbaum

The Education Ministry is considering a dramatic change in the way high school education is funded that will result in parents having to pay for many classes in matriculation-exam subjects.

According to sources familiar with the plan, ministry officials are planning to reduce the number of mandatory hours in grades 10 to 12 to the number of hours required for a minimal matriculation certificate, and having parents make up the difference to the tune of up to 2,300 shekels ($650) a year. If the plan is approved, the children of parents who don’t pay the extra fees will study five fewer hours per week.

“Parents for the first time will be asked to pay for study hours,” as opposed to enrichment, a source said. “The free education law will become meaningless.”

The trigger for this radical proposal – which would be illegal, since parent payments for “enrichment” are not supposed to go toward paying for academic curricula – was the discovery last year by parents in one national-religious high school that enrichment hours they were paying for were not actually being provided, and instead their payments were being absorbed into the school’s general budget and used to split classes, boost instruction in certain subjects and compensate the administrative and educational staff beyond the permitted level of 6 percent.

In response to a complaint, which was investigated and confirmed, the school was ordered to refund some of the money to parents, who have yet to receive it. According to sources familiar with the issue, both the ministry and the religious high school networks – which are close to the heart of Habayit Hayehudi Education Minister Naftali Bennett – fear setting a precedent of refunding money and are trying to find a way to whitewash such practices by essentially demanding that all parents pay extra for various academic subjects.

Last week sources in the Education Ministry said that “the matter has not been finalized.” There is expected to be another meeting on the issue next week. Education Ministry spokesman Amos Shavit refused to answer questions on the matter, including on what Bennett’s position is.