10 days to go, and still no deal on school budget

Union of Local Authorities repeats school year won't start unless cuts are repealed.

Ten days before the school year is set to open, the Union of Local Authorities in Israel (ULIA) reiterated its intention Thursday to keep the schools closed unless the government rescinded the NIS 85 million budget cut to education. During an emergency conference entitled "the government is destroying education," mayors, MKs and teachers union leaders all expressed their extreme dissatisfaction with the government. "The government has requested from us to transfer residents' tax money, which was collected for landscaping, culture and other municipal needs. Instead, the government wants us to cover its own responsibilities and has turned us into income tax B!" ULIA head Adi Eldar said at the conference. Knesset Finance Committee chairman Avishay Braverman (Labor), Secondary Schoolteachers Organization head Ran Erez and Israel Teachers Union head Yossi Wasserman all attended the conference, alongside 30 mayors and 200 heads of municipal education departments. Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav stated, "If the government approves the cut, they have declared the end of free education by law." He added that when he started his term as mayor, the city funded 40 percent of the education budget and the ministry 60%. By the end of his term, the percentages had reversed. The ULIA and the Education Ministry failed to come to agreement during a meeting earlier this week. The ministry informed the local authorities recently that they would have to make up an NIS 85m. difference in the education budget. In response to the conference, the ministry released a statement pledging to continue to work with local authorities to resolve the problem.