(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The Education Ministry was angered by the passage of a law on Tuesday extending mandatory school attendance past the 10th grade.
Education Minister Yuli Tamir "thinks this law is important. But these laws are passed without budgets, so now the ministry must implement a law - and later High Court decisions enforcing that law - without the budget needed to do so," said a spokesperson for Tamir.
The law, which was passed unanimously (27-0) in the Tuesday plenum, is a change in the 1949 Mandatory Education Law, extending the last year of mandatory schooling from 10th grade to 12th grade. Practically, it prevents schools from expelling 11th- and 12th-grade students without finding them an alternative educational track. It may also increase education spending by hundreds of millions of shekels each year - estimates vary according to support or lack thereof for the new law.
"But Melchior's law" - it was presented by, among others, Knesset Education Committee Chairman MK Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) - "has no budget," continued Tamir's representative.
"This happens all the time. It's standard procedure now. MKs pass laws that have no budgetary backing, so they aren't implemented. Then there's a petition to the High Court of Justice, which demands that the law be implemented. The Education Ministry is being forced to be a criminal."
Melchior, for his part, was unmoved by the complaint. "No Knesset law stipulates where its funding will come from. You can close down the Knesset if this [demand] is made. What do you need it for, if the government alone is allowed to present laws?"
Besides, "in any other country, the education minister would be the one pushing this," Melchior continued. "Instead of crying and saying they'll become criminals, the Education Ministry [officials] should take a citizenship class. The officials of the executive branch must implement Knesset laws. Those who can't, should find another job," he said.
"We've worked on this for seven months. All the experts say it's the most important thing for Israel. The Education Ministry also admits this is one of the most important laws ever to pass in Israel."
Furthermore, the legislation is financially advantageous to the state, Melchior said. "We live in a world that knows that 12 years of study is the minimum. Who will take care of these people after they drop out? What kind of job can you get without a high school education? Some 24,000 kids are thrown into the street, and they'll cost much more then."
Besides, Melchior concluded, "there's already a right to study [through 12th grade]. That the Education Ministry depends [in its budgeting] on students dropping out is inappropriate. I put into the law that it can be implemented in stages."
How could the money for so important a law be unavailable, he noted, when, "after all, everybody's been telling us that the economy is going great?"
The ministry will be holding meetings in the coming days to decide how to secure the funds to implement the law.