Special-ed Program in Israel to Start on Schedule Despite Severe Budget Shortage

Government hundreds of millions short, claims election putting a hold on budget talks

Special-needs children at a school in Modi’in, Israel, August 8, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

The program for children requiring special education will start the new school year on schedule despite budget problems, the Education Ministry said on Wednesday, following its announcement last week that a severe budget crunch would cause disruptions.

On Thursday it said the budget for constant supervision of students with autism or life-threatening allergies will come at the expense of “holiday school” tutoring during Hanukkah.

Last week the Education Ministry said it was short hundreds of millions of shekels for special education. It will not be able to open new classes for autistic children and in the case of special-needs children placed in regular classrooms, who are constantly accompanied by assistants, it will have to cut back working hours for the assistants, the ministry said.

Sources at the ministry explain that the number of autistic children has risen by 3.7 percent a year recently, while the number of school pupils in the general population increased by 1.7 percent.

The Finance Ministry says the increase in the number of autistic children had been anticipated and that the Education Ministry could have prepared accordingly. The Finance Ministry said the Education Ministry’s demands for more money moments before the new school year begins (on September 1) is a violation of prior agreements.

The Education Ministry maintained that it couldn’t reach an agreement with the Finance Ministry because of the two elections this year (one in April and the upcoming one in September), which caused budget talks to be postponed.