Shas to Get Haredi-only Education Portfolio in Coalition Deal

Tentative agreement allows party to appoint a minister who will have power over ultra-Orthodox education.

Shas will apparently receive ministerial responsibility for ultra-Orthodox education under an emerging coalition agreement with Likud.

The tentative agreement allows the party to appoint a minister within the Education Ministry who will enjoy broad financial and pedagogic powers over these schools, which have some 220,000 students. Yossi Sarid, a former education minister and former Meretz chairman, termed the reputed deal "a fire sale of Israel's state education."

The emerging agreement, which also promises a NIS 1.5 billion increase in child allowances over the next three years, will require Likud to compensate United Torah Judaism, as that party also wanted the Education post.

The new post is expected to go to MK Meshulam Nahari, a former deputy education minister and leading expert on the Haredi educational system. Nahari is best known for a law he sponsored that obligates cities to partially fund "recognized but unofficial" Haredi schools, meaning private schools that do not belong to one of the major Haredi school systems but still receive some support from the state. Critics complain that the so-called 2007 Nahari Law increased municipal funding for Haredi schools without requiring them to meet the standards demanded of state schools.

Sarid argued that it is "impossible" to have "two education ministers and two education ministries. The day this happens, the state will have essentially conceded its authority over the Haredi systems."

An Education Ministry official agreed, saying this would constitute "an additional blow, and a particularly severe one, to the status of public education." Noting that Nahari would surely use his position to increase funding for Haredi schools, the official said, "In the existing budgetary situation, this will come at the expense of public education."