Politics Are Leading Israel to Economic Suicide via Ultra-orthodox Education Laws

Ever the political survivor, Netanyahu is pushing to give religious parties a free ride to ignore core curriculum, leaving graduates too poorly education to get a job.

Haaretz Editorial
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Ultra-Orthodox children sit in front of a teacher as they learn the alphabet at the Shomrei HaHoma Torah School for boys in Jerusalem. Nov. 9, 2010.
File photo: Ultra-Orthodox children at the Shomrei HaHoma Torah School for boys in Jerusalem.Credit: Reuters
Haaretz Editorial

Israel is ostensibly an orderly state of law. Thus, several years ago the state set rules for receiving Education Ministry funding, correlating budgets with the teaching of core studies, such as English, math and science. State schools that teach students 100 percent of the core curriculum would get full funding; schools defined as “recognized but unofficial” (which are primarily, but not exclusively, ultra-Orthodox), teach 75 percent of the core curriculum and get 75 percent funding, while “exempt” schools (which are exclusively ultra-Orthodox) would teach 55 percent of the core curriculum and be funded accordingly.

But this rule has never been observed. On orders from above, of course, the Education Ministry has never carefully monitored whether the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) schools are meeting their core curriculum obligations and they were funded regardless of the scope of their core studies. Exemplifying this was a political agreement that gave the two large Haredi school networks — United Torah Judaism’s Hinuch Atzma’i and Shas’ Maayan Hahinuch Hatorani — 100 percent funding with the understanding that both would teach the full core curriculum. But they do not do so.

The previous education minister, Shay Piron, tried to challenge this open falsehood by passing an amendment to the law that for the first time tried to make exempt schools teach core studies as a condition for retaining their funding. Piron thus sought to uphold the principle of equality before the law and also to advance the education of Haredi boys, who leave school with fourth-grade-level general knowledge, ignorant of science and math and in particular, English. Haredi ignorance boomerangs for the state of Israel since these boys become Haredi men who have a hard time integrating into the workforce, or able to find only low-paying jobs.

But it is this amendment that the government is seeking to cancel, through an expedited procedure, to fulfill Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to his Haredi coalition partners. Netanyahu is thus pulling Israel back toward that destructive, deceitful agreement that prevailed until Piron took the helm of the Education Ministry.

To accept the lack of core studies taught at Haredi boys’ schools is a step toward national economic suicide. The state is funding schools that are producing the next generation of the poor and illiterate.

With taxpayer funds the state is abandoning its moral obligation as a welfare state to ensure equal opportunity for every child, and is perpetuating the gap between Israel and other developed nations. As a result, the state of Israel will continue to deteriorate morally, economically and socially. Netanyahu knows this but is still leading this move — as usual, for the goal of political survival.

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