A forum of administrators from the state religious school system met with senior government officials to discuss the budgetary crisis facing them.
At the meeting on Monday night were Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett and Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, along with Deputy Education Minister Avraham Wortzman and chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee Nissim Slomiansky.
Funding problems developed due to an initiative of the Bayit Yehudi party and the deputy education minister, which was instigated at the beginning of this academic year. Parents of children in the state school system, which includes the state religious schools, would pay 10 percent less in fees to schools, and the government would transfer funds to make up the difference. However, the government has yet to transfer all the promised funds to the schools.
During the meeting, the heads of the education institutions made it clear that given the current financial situation they would have no choice but to soon give teachers notices that they would not have jobs in the academic year that begins on September 1.
Last week, hundreds of principals gathered in Yad Binyamin for an emergency meeting and threatened to go on strike along with their pupils, if the funds were not transferred by the May 8 deadline.
The two sides had previously agreed that the government would transfer the promised money by early May to the schools with respect to the current academic year.
The parties agreed that during the next two weeks additional efforts would be made to avert the budgetary crisis for next school year.
Wortzman said he would coordinate with Education Minister Shai Piron and that the ministry would shortly release an official document promising the designated funds in full for the 2014- 2015 academic year. This document would provide a guarantee and would eliminate the need to fire teachers.
The forum thanked the education minister for the promise of the money, to be taken from elsewhere in the ministry’s budget.
Bennett said during the meeting that as chairman of Bayit Yehudi he sees the study of Torah and religious education as a supreme value, which stands at the head of his party’s agenda.
The minister announced that he will work with “determination and decisiveness” to bring a fundamental and permanent solution to the budgetary crisis, and that if necessary the issue will be taken to the cabinet and to the Knesset.
Bennett charged the deputy education minister with coordinating with the school heads in handling the matter in both the short and long term and report back with the results.
As part of a resolution to the financial crisis, Wortzman will liaise with the education minister, the state religious schools board, the council of the state religious schools and board of rabbis, and heads of the institutions to ensure that the status and scope of Torah study will not be harmed, but rather “upgraded and promoted.”
The heads of the state religious institutions warned that if the funds are not be transferred within two weeks, schools will be forced to proceed with firing teachers; and on May 19, the day after Lag Ba’omer, all state religious institutions throughout the country will go on strike.