Parents threaten strike over 'discrimination' at Petah Tikva private schools

Demand that private religious institutions in the city begin to enroll Ethiopian pupils.

back to school 248.88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
back to school 248.88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The Petah Tikva Parent-Teacher Association on Monday threatened a city-wide school strike at the start of the school year, which begins next week, unless private religious institutions in their city begin to enroll Ethiopian pupils in their schools. The parents gathered at a press conference that had been organized by state-religious schools to protest what they have called the discrimination of Ethiopian pupils within the private religious school system, and were joined by members of the city's Ethiopian community, who have also voiced support for the strike. Earlier this year, private religious institutions in the city announced that they would not enroll Ethiopian pupils despite being ordered to do so by the municipality, and would instead enroll them on an individual basis only. "It's very simple really," PTA member Yehuda Lanzkron told The Jerusalem Post on Monday evening. "The [private religious schools] are not practicing equal enrollment, and we won't start the school year until they do." Lanzkron also said that the public schools had absorbed the majority of the Ethiopian pupils and that there was "no more room for them" in the public system. Nir Orbach, who heads the local PTA, demanded on Monday that the city begin practicing an "equal division of immigrant absorption," and said that if the private schools did not begin enrolling the pupils, parents would "shut down the school system in the city." The municipality last week ordered local private schools to enroll about 70 Ethiopian pupils while another 30 pupils were to be enrolled in the public Orthodox school system - where most Ethiopian pupils study. While the private schools have maintained a firm resistance to all attempts to enroll the Ethiopian pupils, their institutions are heavily subsidized by both the education ministry and the Petah Tikva municipality. Last week, the education ministry's Director-General, Dr. Shimshon Shoshani, said that schools refusing to enroll students in a discriminatory manner would be fined and could have their licenses suspended. Education minister Gideon Sa'ar also announced last week that schools that continue to uphold discriminatory practices would be punished. On Monday, his office sent letters to the principals of the private schools with lists of the pupils they are required to enroll. The letters state what Dr.Shoshani said last week, namely, if the schools fail to comply, their licenses would be suspended and budgets cut. Because of the disagreement between the private schools and the municipality, there are still 100 Ethiopian pupils who do not know which school they will be attending when the school year begins on September first.