UTJ Bids to Fund Yeshivas Without Secular Studies

United Torah Judaism party is promoting a bill for financing ultra-Orthodox high school yeshivas that teach no secular classes. The bill would have each such institution receive 55 percent of the budget of regular schools.

The proposal is meant to circumvent the High Court of Justice decision forbidding state financing of institutions that do not implement a core secular education program from the 2007 school year. A senior source in the Shas Knesset faction told Ha'aretz yesterday that the party intends to submit a similar bill, providing support for the initiative from within the coalition.

The core program is composed of subjects and material that every educational institution in Israel is obliged to teach, as a prerequisite for recognition by the Education Ministry. It includes English and mathematics, as well as fundamental values. Its purpose is to provide graduates of the education system with a equal basis for integration into civil society and the workforce. In practice, the Education Ministry finances many Haredi institutions that lack such a core program, or implement it only partially. No secular studies are conducted in small Haredi yeshivas for high school-aged students.

In December 2004, in an appeal filed by the Secondary School Teachers Organization, the High Court ruled that directing financing to institutions that do not provide a core program is illegal, and the court ordered that state financing of these institutions cease in the 2006 school year, thus providing the ministry a very extended transition period of nearly three years.

In an appeal filed by the Israel Religious Action Center to the High Court three weeks ago, it was alleged that the Education Ministry has done almost nothing to introduce a core program into Haredi institutions.