Israel shuttering programs for at-risk youth due to budget crisis

The Education Ministry announced in July that the youth programs would be frozen due to the budget crisis and a lack of about NIS 4 billion needed for the programs.

This poster, calling on people to sign a petition demanding the reopening of facilities for youth at risk, starts with: “It’s difficult for all of us.” (photo credit: THE MEDIA LINE)
This poster, calling on people to sign a petition demanding the reopening of facilities for youth at risk, starts with: “It’s difficult for all of us.”
(photo credit: THE MEDIA LINE)
Politicians and organizations are working hard to try and save dozens of complementary education programs for at-risk youth and youth living in the periphery that are facing closure due to a lack of government funding, as Blue and White and Likud continue to clash over the state budget.
The Education Ministry announced in July that the programs would be frozen due to the budget crisis and a lack of about NIS 4 billion needed for the programs. The ministry has stated that until a state budget is passed, it will not provide a budget for HILA.
A state budget may not be approved until as late as November if an extension to the deadline for the budget is approved by the Knesset.
One of the programs at the forefront of the crisis is HILA, which has been providing complementary education services for students aged 14-18 who have dropped out of school since the 1980's and functions in 120 municipalities. The program aims to prepare students of the Bagrut matriculation tests or for a diploma.
"The conduct of the Finance Ministry is delusional and detached from reality and it is taking the children and youth hostage," said Vered Windman, executive director of the Israel National Council for the Child.
"These are not supplementary or complementary programs, as the Finance Ministry claims in their place, but programs that enable the exercise of basic rights for protection, education and health in body and mind," stressed Windman. "Who in the government thinks that he can justify a far-fetched, delusional and detached from reality decision like this?!"
"Instead of initiating new programs to deal with the difficult challenges of the period, meeting after meeting, more than 50 senior officials from the public sector and civil society are repeatedly forced to explain the critical importance of programs that are expected to close and fail to prevent the evil decree," added Windman, calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "intervene today and to ensure that the youth and children at risk, for whom the school year will open and that they too will receive the care and assistance they are entitled to and need."

The closure of the programs would heavily impact thousands of at-risk students and students from the periphery. Their futures would remain uncertain without the programs and many are concerned that they would likely end up on the streets.
"Before HILA, I studied in two schools and could not survive there, I came to the program because my sister studied there and they just matched us," explained Tehila, a student in HILA to Walla! News. "They're like a home for me. The teachers are my friends and call me after school hours. They made me want to study in a way that suits me."
"For me, closing the Hila program is the end of the world, everything I built will go to waste," stressed Tehila. "I have nowhere to go, they won't accept me at any other school. It's a terrible thought that everything we built there will be erased in a second, lots of youth who come there from a young age and have nowhere to go. No school is willing to do what the HILA project is willing to do and it's sad."
Yemina leader Naftali Bennett warned that if the program was not saved, 8,000 children would end up on the streets. "Stop bickering Knesset and solve this!" said Bennett at a protest by educators and youth from the HILA program in front of the Knesset on Wednesday, according to Srugim.
"I don't care if there are elections or no elections, if there is a budget or no budget. I am interested in one thing - that in two weeks, all the teachers, all the principals and especially all the students of this holy project - HILA, will enter their home. Not the school, their home. We will not give up. You are the most important thing. I love you very, very much. I'm with you," said Bennet to those protesting.
Community Empowerment and Advancement Minister Orly Levy-Abecassis tweeted on Sunday that she had presented a plan to save programs for at-risk youth, especially HILA and the Karev Program. The closing of the two programs would impact 8,000 at-risk youth and hundreds of thousands of youths living in the periphery, according to Abecassis.
The minister explained that the teachers in the program would go into unpaid leave and receive unemployment benefits that would cost the same as just continuing to run the program in the first place. Abecassis tweeted that she had made a number of recommendations, including reallocating funds from coronavirus programs which will definitely not be used in the next six months to the programs for at-risk youth as an interim solution.