Bills to Secure Funding for Yeshivas Pass First Reading

Education Minister Tamir: Proposed legislation would destabilize status of state school system.

The Knesset plenum on Wednesday passed preliminary readings of two bills that would enable ultra-Orthodox schools to circumvent the government's core curriculum program.

The bills, proposed by Shas and United Torah Judaism, outraged other members of the coalition. Both bills seek to amend the state education law so that it allows for the funding of small yeshivas.

Education Minister Yuli Tamir (Labor) said the laws would "destabilize the status of the state school system," and could bring about a situation in which ultra-Orthodox schools receive more funding than state schools.

MK Ofir Pines-Paz (Labor) said that the laws are "a blatant violation of the coalition agreement," and demanded that the Labor Party be convened to discuss leaving the coalition.

According to a High Court of Justice ruling, schools that do not implement the Education Ministry's core curriculum program within the next two months will cease to be eligible for ministry funding.

The ruling was made three years ago, but the ultra-Orthodox parties have only recently initiated moves to legally circumvent the ruling, and it is doubtful whether they will succeed in pushing the laws through the final round of legislation before the Knesset's summer recess.

Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Eli Yishai told Haaretz that that bills don't break the terms of the coalition agreement. According to Yishai, "the small yeshivas never taught the core curriculum. It's like a graven image in the Temple."

MK Meir Porush (UTJ) said that all the ultra-Orthodox are asking for is that "you be considerate of us and allow us to receive what we have hitherto been entitled to."