Special help programs hit hard by budget cuts

The government decided Tel Aviv is wealthy enough to keep a dozen special assistance centers open, but city hall feels differently.

Residents and councilors in Tel Aviv's poor southern neighborhoods are furious that a dozen special assistance centers will close down and that thousands of children will be left without special educational help after the government decided to stop funding the city's southern rehabilitation project, reports www.mynet.co.il. The government reportedly decided that the city could afford to fund the project itself, but the city says it is unable to do so and has no option but to cut NIS 2 million from the project's budget, significantly affecting numerous programs. According to the report, the Finance Ministry insisted that the Housing and Education Ministries stop funding the southern rehabilitation project, apparently on the grounds that the city was "financially strong enough" to keep funding the project itself. An Education Ministry spokesman said the ministry had to organize its budget and transfer payments to local authorities according to the funds it received from the Finance Ministry. A Tel Aviv municipal spokesman said the government's decision to stop funding the project had left the city "with no choice" but to cut NIS 2 million from the project's budget, with the result that it would have to close programs and fire workers. The report said 12 special assistance centers would have to close, among them a special school for children at risk, two treatment centers for pre-school children and an advisory center for youth. In addition, dozens of special assistance programs at schools and kindergartens will be canceled, including programs to diagnose and treat schoolchildren with learning difficulties, and programs to provide special language aides in kindergartens for children of foreign workers. The report said some 70 employees, including psychologists, social workers and speech therapists, had already been sent letters telling them they had lost their jobs. "In everything to do with complementary education, about 10,000 children in the south will be left without any appropriate solution," an unidentified senior municipal officer said. City councilor Shlomo Maslawi said the cuts had to be prevented and local activists were organizing to fight them. "Even more, we demand an increase in the budget for the benefit of children and youths in the weaker neighborhoods," Maslawi said.