Splashing around at Ezrat Achim’s Special Summer Camp 2015.
(photo credit: DAVID ABITBOL)
“The Interior Ministry and the Education Ministry have two weeks to sit down and agree on a reasonable cost for summer camps. If they don’t do this, I will determine the price,” Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee chairman David Amsalem said on Monday.
The Likud MK made his remarks at a committee discussion on the high costs of summer camps, and the reduction of the scope of the Education Ministry’s School of Summer program.
That program was established by former Education Minister Shai Piron in 2014 to provide a low-cost alternative to private summer camps for an estimated 180,000 children in first and second grades, as well as to some 30,000 children in third and fourth grades living in the geographical and social periphery.
The program was to have been expanded last year but was postponed because of the elections. This year it was supposed to include all third and fourth graders as well, but the Education Ministry announced it was postponing the expansion of the program.
At the Knesset committee, Haim Bibas, chair of the Union of Local Authority and mayor of Modi’in, slammed the Education Ministry for its decision.
“The Education Ministry got us pregnant and ran away.
The School of Summer program was excellent and dramatically reduced prices for parents, and so we need to expand it to third and fourth grades and even fifth grade and kindergartens, as the ministry committed to,” he said.
He added the Finance Ministry has said it has already transferred the funds for the summer camps to the Education Ministry.
“But for some reason this is not a part of the priorities of the Education Ministry, and the first to be harmed by this are the parents,” Bibas said.
Local authorities were promoting an initiative to reduce the costs of summer camps in all municipalities to NIS 850, but Bibas added subsidies from the Education Ministry would cut this cost in half.
As the committee was meeting to discuss the issue, parents and pupils gathered Monday in Mazkeret Batya, Alfei Menashe and Tel Aviv to protest the high costs of summer camps.
In recent years, as the end of the school year approaches, the issue rises to the top of the public agenda as parents complain of the enormous cost of summertime care for their children.
The “Summer Camp Protest,” as it has come to be called, has in recent days garnered the support of parents across the country.
Zeev Goldblat, chairman of the National Parents Union, told Channel 2 news that the parents were calling on the government to renounce the cancellation of the School of Summer expansion, and said that if it did not do this the parents would consider escalating their protests.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said in response that when he took office the priorities of the ministry changed to focus primarily on quality education.
As such, Bennett decided to allocate funds primarily to reducing class sizes and adding a second caregiver to all preschools.
The ministry added that first and second graders throughout the country will still be privy to the School of Summer program, which has been expanded in communities adjoining the Gaza Strip to include kindergarten through sixth grade pupils.
The ministry also said that under Bennett, the program was expanded to include thousands of ultra-Orthodox children not previously included.