Local authorities may close unguarded schools

Public Security Ministry is foisting financial responsibility for guards onto the Education Ministry.

back to school 248.88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
back to school 248.88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The issue of security guards for educational institutions, which was swept under the rug during negotiations for the 2009 budget, has reared its head once again and threatens to interrupt the school year if a solution isn't found soon. The Union of Local Authorities, which together with the Forum of 15 Independent Cities decried the budget cuts in August, threatened on Wednesday to close down schools without guards after a breakdown in talks aimed at cancelling cuts to the Public Security Ministry's budget put the jobs of 4,000 security guards in jeopardy. Calling for an urgent meeting with Yossi Waserman and Ran Erez, the heads of the teachers' associations, ULA chairman Adi Eldar said: "The government is forgetting that we don't live in Switzerland and there are people waiting for the perfect opportunity to harm us." In a near repeat of what took place in August, the Public Security Ministry is foisting the financial responsibility for the guards - a bill of approximately NIS 140 million - onto the Education Ministry, which in turn claims the Public Security Ministry is responsible for the guards and says it doesn't have the funds in any case. Although the two sides haven't budged since the cuts were announced, the ULA has tried to get the budget cuts canceled altogether in recent months, albeit in vain. But on Wednesday, with one month before the 2009 budget is scheduled to take effect, the ULA upped the ante by threatening to close schools without guards if the required funds weren't found. In response, the Education Ministry said, "Education Minister Yuli Tamir has been warning the Finance Ministry and the Public Security Ministry of the misguided decision to fire some 4,000 security guards from schools for some time now. "In addition, Education Ministry Director General Shlomit Amihai sent a message to the Finance Ministry's administration at the beginning of the week also warning of the flawed decision to neglect our children's safety due to the economic crisis. "The Finance Ministry must immediately announce that it rescinds its decision. The Education Ministry will cooperate with the Union of Local Authorities against this decision." In August, the ULA had threatened to close kindergartens that didn't have security guards, before a last-minute agreement averted the crisis. In that decision, both ministries agreed to share the security expenses of kindergartens until the end of 2008, splitting the NIS 16 m. bill between them.