Youth council threatens strike, Education Committee stalls on cuts

The Likud asked for a lengthy recess ahead of the vote following a stormy five-hour debate. The recess enabled the coalition to draft enough support for the cutbacks

July 8, 2019 18:34
3 minute read.
Pupils at Tiferet Chaya School for Girls in Elad

Pupils at Tiferet Chaya School for Girls in Elad. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The National Students and Youth Council (NSYC) announced on Sunday it would hold a strike if the Knesset Education Committee cuts funding for school trips as part of potential cutbacks to school-related programs and instead asks parents to pay for them.

The NSYC announced in a press release that they are particularly outraged by the discussion surrounding school trips. If the committee decides not to fund the trips, the council said they plan to strike at the beginning of the school year.

“It is inconceivable that students will be deprived of cultural events, plays, annual trips,” said Liel Malkovich, chairman of the NSYC. “This is not the first time the annual trips are in danger, once again students become the punching bag of unnecessary ego wars.”

The announcement comes in response to Sunday’s committee meeting, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nearly suffered a political blow as the opposition almost blocked a proposal by his government to no longer cover certain educational initiatives.

The Likud Party asked for a lengthy recess following a stormy five-hour debate, which enabled the coalition to draw enough support for some of the planned cuts. However, the committee did not come to an agreement on the matter, and delayed voting on key elements of the cuts.

Addressing allergies in the schools’ lunch program was among the three funding cuts components that were approved by the committee, as well as personal accident insurance and textbooks. An additional discussion will take place in a few days regarding the rest of the payments, including a cultural package, class parties, parent committees and the school trips.

The topic of school trips was discussed at length by MKs, as the Blue and White Party urged that parents should not be responsible for the cost. They claimed that this creates unnecessary financial divides between children.

“[This is] a historic victory for the Blue and White in the Education Committee,” the Blue and White Party announced after the decision on the trips and other issues was stalled. “For the first time, we stopped the education system from robbing parents by halting the decision on parents’ payments, except for compulsory insurance for the year and books.”

The committee meeting attracted a full room of parents and educational professionals.

“Some families don’t have enough to send their child a sandwich for lunch, how are they supposed to pay for school trips?” heckled one member of the audience.

Blue and White MK Michael Biton, a Yeroham native, and Likud MK Kati Shitrit got into a heated discussion about the subject, as Biton accused the Likud of trying to rob Yeroham’s children of equal opportunity.

“If we do not approve the parents’ payments, 80% of the parents will find a way to get their children on trips,” said Ya’acov Margi, Shas MK and chairman of the committee. “The ones who will struggle will be students from the lower socioeconomic strata.”
Malkovich said the NSYC believes the government should prioritize students over politics.

“This issue can be solved without harming students and their studies,” he said. “The Ministry of Education has one of the highest budgets among government ministries, it is impossible to start the next school year without deciding on the cultural package and annual trips, which are integral parts of the student routines.”

Blue and White MK Orly Fruman accused the Education Ministry of treating parents as a cash register.

“It is time for long-term planning to ease the burden on the parents, and for the state to take responsibility for funding what is called ‘free compulsory education,’” she said.

Meanwhile, Blue and White MK Karin Elharar asked the committee to hold discussions on the Supervision of Day Care Law in the Education Committee during the election period.

“The demand that I passed on to the Education Committee to continue working energetically to advance the regulations of the Supervision of Day Care Law is beginning to take shape,” she said.

She demanded that changes come into effect before Election Day.

“Our children cannot wait until the elections are over,” she added, referring to a recent incident in which a nursery daycare worker was charged with child abuse. “The law has to go into effect on September 1, 2019, so that horror stories like Rosh Ha’ayin will never happen again.”

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