The Knesset Committee on Education, Culture and Sports voted on Wednesday to postpone implementation of the Compulsory Education Law for three- to four-yearsold by another year.
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The vote was carried out subject to Education Minister Shai Piron’s assurances to find a solution for children with special needs who want to integrate into the state education system in the next academic year (2014-15).
Piron promised to examine the issue both under the Compulsory Education Law and outside its framework.
Committee chairman Amram Mitzna (Hatnua) said, “There are only several dozen children who need to be integrated into the state education system and excluded from the postponement of the Compulsory Education Law.”
On Monday, Mitzna called on the committee to postpone the vote and reconvene in a week’s time, to allow the Education Ministry to present concrete numbers and statistics on how the proposal will affect children with special needs.
Parents of children with special needs opposed the delay of the law’s implementation, saying the right of such children to integrate into the state educational framework will not be properly upheld and parents will have to pay for their youngsters’ additional needs.
The result, according to the parents, is that their children remain ineligible for integration committees, receive only partial funding for caregiver services, and lack proper assistance for complex medical needs. These children will also miss out on the support of educational staff with proper training and guidance and lack individualized educational programs.
Piron initially asked to postpone application of the law to allow municipalities more time to build the additional preschools and infrastructure required.
The amended Compulsory Education Law in 1984 set the minimum age of compulsory education at three years old. Full application of the law has been postponed numerous times. It has been partially implemented, due in part to budgetary concerns and a lack of organizational infrastructure.
In January 2012, the government decided to adopt the Trajtenberg Committee’s recommendations to finance free education for ages three to four and allow for the implementation of the law throughout the country by the 2014-15 academic year.
According to the Education Ministry, approximately 90 percent of children ages three to four already receive free compulsory education.
Last week, the Knesset plenum approved in its first reading the proposal to delay the implementation of the law by a vote of 22-9.
The proposal was passed on to the Education Committee for approval and preparation for a second and third, final reading.