(photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
The government is planning to restore income support payments for married, full-time yeshiva students as part of the budget that was approved by the government for passage to the Knesset last week.
In addition, a law requiring local authorities to provide funding to private haredi schools that was cancelled by the last government, is likely to be restored, while the budget for stipends for all yeshiva students will be doubled.
For many years, some 10,000 full-time yeshiva students who were married with three children were able to claim income support benefit of NIS 1,040 per month, at a cost to the state of approximately NIS 120 million. The High Court of Justice ruled in 2010 that such payments were discriminatory since they were not available to university students.
Following the ruling, the government limited the period for receiving the income support to five years for students under the age of 29, although those above that age, 80 percent of recipients, continued to receive these payments, and made some payments available to university students in need of financial support.as well.
This too was struck down by the High Court in 2014 however.
According to The Marker, within the framework of budget negotiations the Treasury and the Prime Minister’s Office agreed to establish a committee to examine the formulation of legislation to establish in law the income support payments that were provided up till 2014.
In addition, the state-paid stipend to full-time yeshiva students, separate from income support, will be dramatically increased.
Before the last government, the budget for monthly yeshiva stipends stood at over NIS 1 billion a year, but was cut almost in half by the 33rd government due to the insistence of former Minister of Finance and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid.
However, in a letter written by current Finance Minister and Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon to senior haredi MK Yaakov Litzman and published last week by the B’Hadrei Haredim news website, Kahlon promised to bring the stipend budget back up to NIS 975 million for the year 2015 to 2016.
The government also agreed to introduce legislation that will bring back the controversial “Nahari law,” which obliged local municipal authorities to fund non-state haredi schools but was abolished by the last government.
Although Shas’ Mayan Hinuch Torani and the Independent Education system of Agudat Yisrael are technically private, they are recognised by the state and under the Nahari law received 75 percent of the budget allocated to state schools by local authorities.
The cancellation of the law gave local authorities the option of either cancelling this support but allowed them to continue with this funding if they voted to do so.
Restoration of the law will once again oblige local authorities to provide a minimum of 75 percent funding to such schools.
Director of the Hiddush religious pluralism lobbying group Attorney and Rabbi Uri Regev deplored the new budgetary allotments to the haredi sector, saying they would cause “severe damage” to Israel’s future, especially to the economy and the education system.
“The Nahari law will direct massive amounts of money which do not teach core curriculum subjects, and will therefore assist in raising new generations of haredim who will have difficulties integrating into the labor force and Israeli society,” said Regev.
He described the attempt to re-introduce income support payments for married yeshiva students as intended to encourage yeshiva students to remain in yeshiva and not to provide for their own income.
“The coalition is continuing with its fire sale of the state budget in order to buy short term power with money while spitting in the face of the self-supporting, tax paying paying.”