Haredi parties working to gain access to Education Ministry's summer day camp program

The summer day camp initiative was implemented during the last government by former education minister Shai Piron.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews are taught in school. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Ultra-Orthodox Jews are taught in school.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Shas and United Torah Judaism are fighting to have haredi schools included in a program of the Education Ministry that subsidizes the costs of day camps for Grades 1 and 2 children during the summer vacation.
The summer day camp initiative was implemented during the previous government by former education minister Shai Piron. The ministry provided funding for the program along with local authorities and contributions from parents.
However, the subsidy was made available only to public schools to the chagrin of the haredi political leadership and the broader haredi community, whose educational institutions are outside the public school system.
It is available to the newly created state school system for the haredi sector, also set up by Piron, although only a handful of haredi schools have chosen to join this new framework.
Piron’s goal was to encourage haredi schools to join the new state haredi school network and also to boost the participation of other sectors in the full state school system.
The majority of haredi elementary schools is categorized as “recognized but unofficial,” meaning they are private schools but recognized by the Education Ministry.
They teach the core curriculum subjects and receive close to 100 percent of the funding that the state schools receive.
But such schools were not however eligible for the summer day camp program, which Piron made available only to the public school system.
This led to charges of discrimination from the haredi leadership as well as from Arab MKs, since some Muslim schools are also “recognized but unofficial” and are also not eligible for the day camp subsidy, along with a small number of national- religious schools.
In a letter to new Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Shas MK and chairman of the Knesset Education Committee Yaakov Margi said he had received numerous requests from school principals and parents asking to change the eligibility categories to enable recognized but unofficial schools to participate in the day camp program.
“The decision of [former] minister of education MK Shai Piron negatively discriminates against different sectors of the population,” Margi wrote, and specified the haredi and Arab communities in particular as suffering from the eligibility criteria.
Margi’s office pointed specifically to comments made by the State Comptroller’s Office last year saying that the exclusion of recognized but unofficial schools from summer day camps would have negative social consequences and recommended that the ministry find a way to include such schools in the program.
Deputy Education Minister and UTJ MK Meir Porush also spoke out on the issue on Wednesday, noting that a clause within the coalition agreement between the Ashkenazi haredi party and Likud requires that recognized but unofficial schools be included in the program.
“The coalition agreement between UTJ and Likud requires the Treasury to compensate the Education Ministry on this issue. We are conducting talks with the finance minister and waiting for his approval of the funds,” Porush said.
Piron’s office issued a statement saying, “The former minister sees strengthening the public education system as a central social objective to reduce the divisions between communities and to creating a joint national ethos for all Israeli citizens. A quality and accessible public education system is key to reducing societal gaps, while helping formulate a national language and deepening educational excellence. Piron’s decision affected not only the haredi education system but also schools from other sectors, so the claim that there was any desire to harm the haredi education system is totally unfounded.”