Netanyahu facing coalition rebellion over free schooling

PM's plans to provide free pre-school education ran into problems when the heads of parties in his coalition said they would vote against the plan.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
January 6, 2012 05:49
1 minute read.
Netanyahu addresses IAF pilot's course graduate

Netanyahu 311. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s plans to provide free pre-school education for three-year-old children beginning with this fall ran into problems Thursday when the heads of parties in his coalition said they would vote against the plan in Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

Speaking in Jerusalem Tuesday at an official ceremony inaugurating centers for excellence in education across the country, the prime minister said the initiative would be funded via four percent across-the-board cuts to the budgets of government ministries.

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Shas chairman Eli Yishai came out against the cuts on Wednesday and said his party’s four ministers would vote against them. Independence leader Ehud Barak announced Thursday that his party’s five ministers would also oppose the cuts.

Both Yishai and Barak said the free education should instead be funded by increasing the budget framework, a step both Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz have fiercely ruled out.

Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who could tip the scale in favor or against the cuts, will speak publicly about them for the first time at a party forum in Jerusalem on Friday. Israel Beiteinu ministers Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Stas Meseznikov have both issued statements opposing the cuts.

Currently, only children five-years-old and above receive free education, and many families struggle to pay for daycare and kindergarten for children under that age.

“Families spend thousands of shekels on private kindergartens and we will act to correct this situation,” Netanyahu said.

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