Free education law gains high-profile supporters

Nearly two dozen former education ministers and academics, including four Nobel Prize winners and several Israel Prize winners back law.

December 18, 2011 23:29
2 minute read.
Prof. Dan Shechtman receiving the Nobel Prize

Prof. Dan Shechtman receiving the Nobel Prize 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Ints Kalnins)

Nearly two dozen former education ministers and academics, including four Nobel Prize winners and several Israel Prize winners, have signed their names to a letter sent to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday calling on him to implement the free education law.

The letter was initiated by leaders of the summer’s social justice movement, who said Saturday night they were driven by “the growing fear that the education recommendations of the Trajtenberg Committee will dissolve just as happened with those dealing with taxes for the rich and the report’s findings on housing and public transportation.”

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The signatories include Nobel Prize winners Dan Shechtman (Chemistry), Aaron Ciechanover (Chemistry), Avraham Hershko (Chemistry), and Daniel Kahneman (Economics), as well as eight former education ministers and a several Israel Prize laureates.

The Trajtenberg Committee for Socioeconomic Change, launched this summer by Netanyahu as a response to the protest movement, issued among its recommendations a call to implement the free education law, which was passed in 1984 and calls for free education from age three. The law has not been implemented, and from ages three to five children are enrolled in municipality- run daycare centers which typically include high additional costs, at times as much as NIS 2,000 per child a month.

In 1999 the law was revised with a stipulation that it be implemented by 2009, though it is still not in effect.

In its section on education reforms, the Trajtenberg Committee’s findings spent a great deal of time dealing with the issue of free education and called for the law to finally be implemented. For this purpose, the committee advised putting NIS 7.2 billion over the next five years toward this purpose.

Former education minister Yitzhak Levi, a signatory of the letter, said “I can think of many laws whose implementation was frozen because of hurried or unfitting government decisions, or through criminal negligence of one government or another. But more than any other we must not continue the great educational and social wrong that has been wrought by the freezing of the free education law.”

The costs of pre-school education was one of the driving issues of the social justice movement, and brought thousands of parents to the summer protests.

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