170 local authority heads to Netanyahu: Education policy is flawed

Local authorities are not satisfied with the coalition's plans and warned that they will not be able to cover the costs of funding for haredi schools.

 PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, last week. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, last week.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The Likud's coalition agreements with Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) that will force municipalities to pay for the rise in funding to private haredi schools will lead to "damage to management, supervision and budgeting of education services for our residents wherever they are," and is "something we cannot agree to," some 170 mayors and regional council heads wrote in a letter on Monday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Education Minister Yoav Kisch.

In particular, municipalities or regional councils that do not provide the increased funding for the private haredi schools systems will have the equivalent funding subtracted from their general budget, according to Clause 147 of the Shas-Likud deal.

The state should fund private schools

The local authority heads argued in the letter that since it was the state who makes the decision to fund private or semi-private schools, the state should also be the one to fund them.

"We will not agree to having a huge financial burden on the local authorities, who are already required to fund public education from their regular budgets," they wrote.

The local authority heads also protested the plan to pass the external pedagogic programs to Noam MK and deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Avi Maoz.

 Benjamin Netanyahu and Avi Maoz meet ahead of coalition negotiations. (credit: LIKUD SPOKESPERSON) Benjamin Netanyahu and Avi Maoz meet ahead of coalition negotiations. (credit: LIKUD SPOKESPERSON)

"We will not agree to favoring one population over others, while bypassing the local authority's educational authorities anchored in law, to create education programs that are adapted according to the needs of each specific authority."

"We will not agree to the creation of a route that bypasses the local authorities in order to establish private educational institutions at the expense of the public educational institutions.

"We will not allow the state, through whatever agreements, to expropriate the authority and responsibility of the local authorities towards their residents," the mayors concluded.

Notably, a number of signees are members of the Likud, including Modi'in mayor Haim Bibas and others.

Haredi politicians respond

A number of haredi politicians responded to the letter.

"It is a big disappointment to see local authority heads incited by the media, and riding the ugly wave of incitement," United Torah Judaism MK Uri Maklev said on Monday afternoon, ahead of UTJ's weekly faction meeting. "They talk about discriminating against populaces? What they are doing is perpetuating discrimination that already existed for years," Maklev added.

 UTJ chairman Rabbi Yitzchak Goldknopf and Members of the United Torah Judaism speaks to the press after a meeting with Israeli president Isaac Herzog at the President's residence in Jerusalem on November 10, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) UTJ chairman Rabbi Yitzchak Goldknopf and Members of the United Torah Judaism speaks to the press after a meeting with Israeli president Isaac Herzog at the President's residence in Jerusalem on November 10, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Knesset Interior Committee chair and UTJ MK Yaakov Asher said ahead of a committee meeting on Monday, "What the local authorities spend they need to give to each child the exact same amount, we will not accept any discrimination on this issue."

Israel's education system includes three levels of school systems: The public education system; the "recognized but not public" system, which includes two of the largest haredi school chains; and the private school system.

According to the law, the "recognized but not public" system receives 75% of the amount that a public-school student receives, and the private schools receive 55%. However, these ratios have been eroded, as the public education system signed two major plans in the last two decades that enlarged the funding for public schools based on them meeting certain criteria. The "recognized but not public" system and the private system were not included in these agreements and continued to receive percentages of the base salary.

According to the coalition agreement, these systems will now be included in the enlarged funding, and will receive the 75% or 55% of the entire funding that a public-school student receives. If the local authorities will need to cover the increased funding, they will lose chunks of their budget that they otherwise would have invested elsewhere.