Hirchson: I'm not opposed to increasing education budget, but first reform

Tamir angered at 'meddling' in Education Ministry affairs.

hirchson budget 88 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
hirchson budget 88 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson demanded on Monday that the Education Ministry present a reform plan to revamp the educational system before he would agree to add funds to the education budget. "I've told Education Minister [Yuli Tamir] that I'm willing to rebuild the budget from scratch along with her," he said, adding, "I'm not ruling out adding to the education budget, but I have to know that every shekel gives results. I won't throw money out to sea." Hirchson spoke at a meeting of the Knesset Education Committee on Monday morning - his first appearance before the committee - following a week of hearings on the education budget. Hirchson then criticized Tamir's decision not to continue with the Dovrat reforms begun by her predecessor Limor Livnat. "Every new minister comes and changes the decisions of their predecessors," he complained. "Education reform must be long-term, and you can't change [policy] every two to three years." Tamir was angered by Hirchson's call for reform. "I welcome his commitment to continuity of governmental [policy] and to fulfilling the promises of previous governments," she said. If the finance minister was so committed to fulfilling previous policy, she noted sarcastically, "he must implement the recommendations of the Winograd Commission [and lower student tuition by 50%] before turning to a new [Shochat] Commission to decide the future of higher education." Hirchson's statements followed the education committee's detailed survey of the deficiencies, budgetary and otherwise, in the educational system. "Among the things missing in the education system," explained committee chairman MK Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad), "are 6,000 classrooms, 1,500 kindergartens and NIS 2 billion for repairing immediate safety threats [in schools]." In addition, Melchior noted the closing of one-fifth of the departments in teachers' colleges and the low teachers' wages, "the lowest in both the [Israeli] public sector and in the rest of the world." Melchior also detailed the extremely low student test scores that resulted from the system's problems. "In the results of the international PISA test, which we were leading in the 1970s, today we stand at the level of the third world. In addition, IDF generals have told us that they can't find people to fill the technical vocations." Finally, Melchior told the finance minister, "rather than lessening the [socioeconomic] gap, education in Israel is increasing it."