Children at school.
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
Parents and social rights organizations have filed a petition asking the High Court to order the Education Ministry to abolish tuition fees charged by state schools.
The petition was filed on Thursday by 12 parents from Ashdod and Ness Ziona who claimed damages due to the tuition fees imposed by their children’s’ schools.
Social rights organizations Yedid – The Association for Community Empowerment, Hila – For Equality in Education, the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel joined in the parents’ petition. The petitioners are represented by attorney Haran Reichmann, from the Law and Education Policy Clinic at the University of Haifa.
“The director-general of the Education Ministry against whom we petitioned provides a seal of approval, without the proper authorization by law, to create two school systems: one for those with means, and the other for those who cannot afford it. We hope that the court will make clear to the Education Ministry that it is the right of all the children of Israel to realize their potential, regardless of their parents’ economic capacity,” Reichmann said on Sunday.
The petitioners demanded the ministry cancel its “seal of approval” allowing schools to charge the parents fees for the extension of the school day in certain schools and for advanced classes for matriculation exams.
The petitioners argued that under pressure from certain wealthier parent groups, the Education Ministry has allowed for the promotion of privatization in public schools. As such, the petitioners claimed, parents are required to pay close to NIS 8,000 per year in fees.
The petitioners claimed that these actions have created two distinct education systems in the state school system – one for families who are unable to afford the extra charges and the other for children from well-off families.
In the petition, two schools are used as examples: Shazar Elementary School in Ashdod, a regional school whereby local neighborhood children who cannot afford to pay extra fees are “pushed out,” and Hadar Elementary School in Ness Ziona, which established an Anthroposophical track for children whose families can pay extra fees.
“The policy of the Education Ministry and the municipality has turned the local school where my children learn into a special school charging high tuition fees. We, the parents that live in proximity to the school and cannot make the payments, are categorized as ‘parasites’ and suffer from persecution by groups of parents with means and power,” said Sivan Ohayoun, a mother of a pupil at Shazar Elementary School.
“Most of the parents of the neighborhood, who do not possess the means, have been forced to move their children to different, farther schools, and the few who have remained suffer condemnation and humiliation,” she said.
The petitioners said this is a nationwide phenomenon and cited examples of high schools and elementary schools in Jerusalem where principals received supplements of up to NIS 35,000 per year to their salaries from fees paid by parents to the schools.