Tamir Against Mandatory Local Funding for Unofficial Schools

Education Minister Yuli Tamir is expected to vote against requiring local authorities to match Education Ministry funding for "recognized unofficial schools" at today's cabinet meeting. The bill was proposed by MK Meshulam Nahari of Shas.

Shas rejects Tamir's criticism of the bill, and expects it to be approved in the form first presented to the cabinet three months ago.

The ministry has limited oversight over these schools, many of which are ultra-Orthodox. Tamir said the bill might lead to "the attraction of unofficial recognized education increasing, which could drain students and funding from the state education system."

The Union of Local Authorities also opposes the bill; the 15 largest cities have even threatened to cease providing funding beyond the minimum 25 percent if the bill is approved.

When the bill was first presented to the cabinet, Tamir and others were charged with examining its legal and economic implications. Tamir recommends that Nahari's bill be rejected. Instead, local authorities should be allowed to set egalitarian criteria for supporting the recognized unofficial schools.

Education Ministry data shows the cost of implementing Nahari's bill would be NIS 215 million to NIS 240 million.

"No one disagrees with the fact that this is very expensive and that the local authorities will not be able to afford it unless they receive larger budgets. In addition, no one denies that the budgets that would be transferred under this bill might be taken from the official education system," Tamir said.

As to the question of supporting schools the ministry cannot supervise, Tamir noted that the bill would mean annulling the preference for the official school system, thus delivering the national and mainstream national-religious systems a "fatal blow." She wrote the cabinet's decision on the bill was "actually a decision on the future, because over the long term, the approval of the bill could lead to privatizing Israel's education system."

Some of the authorities, especially the financially stronger ones, give their education systems more than the minimum 25 percent. "If the Nahari bill passes, the local authorities will be given a larger budgetary burden but no specific financing sources," Tamir's statement said.