MKs Rally to Fight for Longer School Break

MKs call on Education Minister to postpone his reform - which would start the school year a week earlier - by a year, while the national parents' committee threatens to take the matter to the High Court of Justice.

The Knesset Education Committee has been drafted into the parents' campaign against the decision to open the 2011-12 school year a week earlier than previously planned.

The MKs are calling on Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar to postpone his reform by a year. Meanwhile, the national parents' committee is threatening to take the matter to the High Court of Justice.

school vacation, school break
Nir Kafri

Last week, the Education Ministry decided to open the school year a week earlier, starting this fall. This means class would begin on August 26, not September 1. The decision raised the ire of parents, who argued that they had not received enough notice.

In return, the Sukkot, Hanukkah and Passover vacations would be lengthened. The reform had been recommended by a committee led by former Finance Ministry director general Shmuel Silvan.

The members of the Education Committee say they support Sa'ar's reform, but it needs to be postponed by a year to give parents due notice.

Parents argue that the decision forces them to choose between changing their summer vacation plans or having their children miss the first few days of school. Students also have started voicing opposition to the move, launching groups on Facebook with names including "Say no to Gideon" and "I also oppose shortening summer vacation."

While the decision does not need the approval of the Knesset committee, Sa'ar agreed to chairman Alex Miller's (Yisrael Beiteinu ) demand that the reform be explained to the MKs after the Shavuot holiday this week.

Despite the opposition, the Education Ministry has said it does not intend to change its decision. Sa'ar said over the weekend he told the ministry director general to use his judgment regarding students who cannot make it to the first few days of class.

Meanwhile, the ministry's decision has received the backing of some groups, including Haifa's forum of parents for state religious education, which said the move was a step toward a school year that better suited the Hebrew calendar.

Committee member Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu ), who has eight children between the ages of 2 and 14, said she supported shortening the summer break, which would reduce the burden on families paying for summer camps and daycare. But she said it should be done only in 2012.

Another member, MK Zion Pinyan (Likud ), said he had planned to visit China with his six children and that he wasn't sure whether he'd be able to shift his travel dates.

MK Israel Eichler (United Torah Judaism ), whose 14 children attend Haredi schools, was not moved by the parents' complaints. "If you can postpone operations due to the doctor strike, you can change vacation dates," he said.