Bill to cancel non-religious studies in haredi schools moves forward

Some 75,000 haredi pupils study in independent “recognized but unofficial” schools.

July 24, 2016 18:02
2 minute read.
Belz yeshiva

Belz yeshiva students study Torah in Jerusalem.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday approved a law for its first reading in the Knesset that will annul a law passed by the previous government requiring haredi elementary schools to teach 11 hours of the core curriculum subjects of English, math and science.

Implementation of the current law was never enforced, so it has, in effect, never come into practice, nor was it likely to be enforced by the current government.

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Nevertheless, approval of the new bill drew condemnation from Yesh Atid, which led the drive to pass the core curriculum law in the last government.

Science and Technology Minister and Likud MK Ofir Akunis also voiced opposition to the bill, leaving the committee meeting before the vote.

“I am in favor of all Israeli children learning English, math and science,” Akunis said as he walked out.

“That is the correct and right thing to do, which will guarantee that Israeli children and the entire state will continue to be one of the leading and groundbreaking countries in innovation around the world,” he said.

Although it was never implemented, gutting the law is a specific clause in the United Torah Judaism coalition agreement with the Likud, and the haredi party has been anxious to remove it from the statute book.

The law, along with a government order also passed by the former government, was supposed to reduce the funding of what are known as “exempt institutions” and independent “recognized but unofficial” schools, which the majority of male haredi pupils attend for their elementary education, from 55 percent and 75%, respectively, to just 30%, should they fail to teach 11 hours of core curriculum studies.

In practice, these penalties were not enacted due to legal problems that were raised and due to the lack of teachers and inspectors for the haredi schools to implement the law.

The new law will affect approximately 50,000 haredi pupils who study at “exempt institutions.”

Although the last government also passed a government order requiring independent “recognized but unofficial” instruction of 11 hours of core curriculum subjects, implementation of that order was postponed until 2018.

Some 75,000 haredi pupils study in independent “recognized but unofficial” schools.

Critics of the last government and Yesh Atid, in particular, alleged that the party had simply wanted to avoid confrontation, and so delayed implementation until the beginning of the next government.

“There is no limit to the lack of responsibility of this government, and the damage it is willing to do to the future of the Israeli economy just to pay off the haredi parties and buy another year of power,” said rabbi and attorney Uri Regev, director of the Hiddush religious pluralism lobbying group.

“The government’s decision will leave generations of haredi children without a basic general education and without the ability to enter the job market and provide themselves with an income in the future. The main purpose of the law is to ensure that the next generation of haredi voters will be poor and dependent on the haredi parties so they will continue to obey them.”

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