Ministry, Parents at Odds Over Caretakers for Special-needs Kids

The Education Ministry announced yesterday it would assign one caretaker per class at special-needs schools. However, parents are demanding the ministry reinstate an earlier policy of providing a caretaker for every child.

Parents of special-needs children have spent the last several weeks protesting outside the ministry's offices in Jerusalem against the decision to cut back care for their children.

In a press conference yesterday, ministry officials presented data that claimed the budget of its special-needs educational department had risen by 23 percent between 2006 and 2008, whereas the number of pupils at special-needs schools had only grown by 17 percent.

"Parents feel that the only appropriate solution would be a personal teacher for their children," Shlomit Amichai, the director-general of the Education Ministry, said yesterday. "We are of a different opinion. It would be easier to give in and provide personal teachers and make everyone happy, but we are the experts. Parents should trust us and have faith that we are doing the most we can."

But the parents of special-needs children feel differently. "The ministry should give back what it took away," said Haim Retig of Rishon Letzion, whose son Elad is mentally impaired. "My child has great potential, but without a personal teacher to boost his confidence, he will never develop. That's what they don't get at the Education Ministry."

He said that he plans to attend the next demonstration that will be held outside Education Minister Yuli Tamir's house. One of the protest's organizers, Dafna Azarzar, said the ministry's announcement was aimed at silencing them by offering an unsatisfactory compromise. "Our kids need a personal caretaker who will get them involved in the class," she said. "They don't need another caretaker in class who will have to do various chores."