MKs: Gov't plan won't solve classroom scarcity

39% of the new classrooms allocated to the Arab sector and 28% to the Haredi sector.

Yuli Tamir 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Yuli Tamir 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The five-year plan for constructing 8,000 classrooms will barely make a dent in the number currently lacking in the national school system, Knesset State Control Committee Chairman Zevulun Orlev (National Union-NRP) warned Education Minister Yuli Tamir on Tuesday. "The construction of an average of 1,600 classrooms per year will provide solutions for the natural growth rate and a few other problems but not for the classrooms that are already missing," Orlev told Tamir. "Please don't live in illusions." Orlev was speaking at a meeting to discuss a chapter of the State Comptroller's Report dealing with the scarcity of classrooms in the haredi and Arab sectors. While five haredi MKs attended the meeting, Dov Henin and Hanna Swaid (Hadash) were the only representatives of the Arab electorate. The government has allocated 39 percent of the classrooms (3,120) to the Arab sector and 28% (2,240) to the haredi sector. The rest will go to the state secular and state religious school system. The classrooms are earmarked for kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools. The plan went into effect in 2007 and is due to be in force until 2011. Over that period, the Education Ministry is to allocate money to build an average of 1,600 classrooms. Shmuel Halpert (United Torah Judaism) said the haredi school system currently lacked 6,000 classrooms and that the birth rate in the new all-haredi cities and towns is high. In Elad, for example, 53 babies are born each week. At that rate, the Education Ministry would have to build 70 classrooms each year in Elad alone. Hannah Swaid (Hadash) warned that the plan "would barely cover the natural birth rate in the Arab sector, and we all know there is a direct relationship between physical conditions and educational accomplishments." Tamir added that the allocation of classrooms according to educational streams is likely to change before the five-year plan is over because the Education Ministry is preparing a new survey of needs based on three parameters: classrooms that are missing, substandard classrooms and in the wake of last fall's teachers' strike, the introduction of a new standard of no more than 32 children per classroom. The new criteria will change the proportional distribution between the Arab state, Jewish state and haredi schools. The survey is due to be published in about two months. Moshe Gafni (UTJ) warned that "there is no solution to the problems of any of the educational streams in the government's plan. It won't cover anything." He said failure to solve the problem in the haredi sector would lead to public protests. "We won't remain silent," he warned.