The Education, Culture and Sports committee decided on Monday to postpone a vote on whether to delay a proposal that would push back the implementation of the Compulsory Education law for three to four-years-old by another year.
This would be nearly the tenth time the government postponed the law’s application, which states that all children from the age of three must be integrated into the education system.
Committee chairman Amram Mitzna (Hatnua) called on the committee to 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 – who want to integrate into the educational system.
Parents of children with special needs opposed the delay due to the fact that if there if there is no application of compulsory education, the right of special needs children to integrate into the educational framework is not properly upheld.
The result, according to the parents, is that these children remain ineligible for integration committees, receive only partial funding of caregiver services (that don’t have clear criteria), lack medical assistance for complex medical needs. These children would also miss out on the support of educational staff with proper training and guidance and lack an individualized educational program.
The amended Compulsory Education Law in 1984 set the age of compulsory education to three-years-old. Since that time the implementation of the law was postponed numerous times and has only partially taken effect, due in part to budgetary concerns and a lack of organizational infrastructures.
In January 2012 the government decided to adopt the Trachtenberg Committee 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.
“I estimate that there are only hundreds of children throughout the country [with special needs] and therefore the monetary amount is insignificant.
If parents want to integrate their child into a normal framework, we should allow them to do so,” said Mitzna.
Last week the Knesset plenum, in its first reading, approved the proposal to delay the implementation of the law by a vote of 22-9. The proposal then passed to the Education Committee for approval and preparation of a second and third (final) reading.
According to the Education Ministry, local authorities are unable to complete the necessary construction of additional preschools and lack the infrastructure to implement the law by 2015.
As such, MK Shai Piron (Yesh Atid) asked to postpone the application of the law in order to allow the local municipalities additional time to build the necessary frameworks.
Sima Hadad Ma-Yafit, director of pre-school education at the Education Ministry, said the problem lies with “big cities” such as Holon, Bat Yam, Tel Aviv and Netanya, which lack the framework to add the 500 classes she estimated would be necessary.
The Education Ministry representatives were unable to provide the committee with exact numbers regarding children with special needs who will be affected by the postponement of the law, though they estimated the numbers to include around 100 or so children.
MK Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid) said she did not think the vote should be delayed, since according to estimates “there are a very minimal number of children with special needs that will be affected by this postponement and I don’t think we should punish the local authorities because of this.”
However, Kariv added that “this should be the last time we vote for postponement.
There is no reason there should be gaps among the population.”
Mitzna said that “delaying the application of the compulsory education law may adversely affect the development of these children, which need a combined framework,” and called on the committee to reconvene in a few days to vote on the proposal.