(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced the appointment on Monday of Dr.
Shimshon Shoshani to head a joint committee tasked with addressing the dispute over funding of Christian schools in Israel.
“Shoshani is known as ‘Mr. Education’,” Bennett said of his choice, who served for many years as the director-general of the Education Ministry.
“I am sure that together we will succeed in formulating the best possible agreement for Christian education in the State of Israel. We are responsible for all the children of Israel,” he said.
Last month the Secretariat of Christian Schools in Israel ended a nearly month-long strike of some 33,000 pupils in 47 church schools that had been ongoing since the start of the school year and reached an agreement with the Education Ministry.
The Christian schools are defined as “recognized but unofficial” and as such are entitled to 75 percent of the funding that state schools receive.
In recent years the Education Ministry has severely dropped its funding to approximately 34% of state schools funding.
The joint committee is to include an equal number of representatives from the ministry and the Christian schools to draw up a solution that will legally enshrine the rights of these schools.
The secretariat seeks to retain the degree of independence provided by the “recognized but unofficial” system, while receiving the 75% funding provided to such schools. In turn, it will continue to teach the state core curriculum subjects and remain subject to state inspections.
Christian schools achieve some of the best results of all schools in Israel, with 69% of Christian pupils matriculating from high school compared to 61% in the Jewish sector and 50% in the Muslim sector, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
In signing the agreement, the secretariat also agreed that Christian high schools would not be able to strike until July 2017 and elementary schools would not be able to strike again this year.
The committee is charged with formulating solutions by March 2016.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.