School of Mostly Native Israelis Gets Funding to Absorb Immigrant Students

Absorption Ministry allocates NIS 320,000 to activities for immigrant students at Gordon elementary school that has only one student not born in Israel.

A Petah Tikva school at the center of a row over student enrollment receives funding for new immigrants, despite the fact that all but one of its pupils were born in Israel, Haaretz has learned.

Internal municipal documents obtained by Haaretz show that for 2011 the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the city of Petah Tikva allocated about NIS 850,000 to activities for programs targeting new immigrants in Petah Tikva schools. About a third of that - more than NIS 320,000 - went to activities for students at Gordon elementary school. In addition the ministry transferred more than NIS 200,000 to Gordon for various activities.

Beit Haoleh in Petah Tikva - Alon Ron - 11092011
Alon Ron

But according to the Education Ministry, there is only one student at Gordon who was not born in Israel.

The additional budget for Gordon may go some way to explaining why parents are so insistent on sending their children there. A group of parents, all of whom immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union, are hoping to enroll their children at Gordon, despite the fact the school year began on September 1.

MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu ) has been supporting the parents of would-be Gordon students for several years. On Wednesday he convened the Knesset Education, Culture, and Sports Committee, of which he is chairman, in an extraordinary session to discuss the issue.

"When have you ever seen parents fight so hard to send their children to school?" Miller asked the committee. When the issue of the children's origins was raised, he shouted: "Is there a different policy toward those whose parents came from Russia? These children are sabras."

MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima ) added: "It's a crime! Racism!"

According to city officials, around NIS 700,000 from the municipal education budget is earmarked for operating afternoon programs for students. While similar programs at other schools cost parents between NIS 800 to NIS 1,000 a month, the cost at Gordon is just NIS 1,000 for the entire year.

The funds in question are intended to pay for a longer school day and various enrichment activities that students at "regular" public schools do not receive. They come from the budgets of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, headed by Sofa Landver, and Petah Tikva's education department, which was headed by councilman Gennady Borshevsky for the past decade, until he was stripped of his authority last week. Both the minister and the councillor represent Yisrael Beiteinu.

According to the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, it transferred just NIS 60,000 to Gordon for special activities. In a statement the ministry said that in the past year it transfered NIS 706,800 in budgetary allocations to Petah Tikva, in accordance with the number of immigrants living in the city and their socioeconomic situation.

On Friday morning, as on every school day since the start of the school year, parents who want to register their children at the school, despite living outside its official catchment area, spent the day with their offspring at Beit Ha'aloeh, a center for immigrants.

City officials say the children must go to the schools assigned to them. Last week the municipality sent letters warning parents that they were breaking the law by keeping their children out of the classroom.