Study finds 60% of schools misuse funds for immigrants

Knesset Aliya, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee finds schools channeling funds from new olim to extracurricular activities.

311_foreign workers' kids (photo credit: Ariel Schalit/AP)
311_foreign workers' kids
(photo credit: Ariel Schalit/AP)
Some 60 percent of schools are misusing funds specifically allocated by the Education Ministry for the benefit of immigrant pupils, a report prepared by the Knesset’s Research and Information Department revealed Monday.
According to the study, which was conducted on behalf of the Aliya, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, a significant number of schools receiving funds specifically meant to improve the educational performance of new immigrant students and help them learn Hebrew, channel the funds into other extracurricular activities. This has led to growing numbers of immigrant pupils failing in the school system or dropping out entirely, the 15-page report found.
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“This is a terrible situation,” commented committee chairman Danny Danon, who commissioned the study, during a hearing convened Monday to discuss the findings. “I believe that any school principal found misusing these funds should be fired.”
The report, which was carried out with the cooperation of the Education Ministry, found that roughly 59% of the elementary schools investigated had not fully utilized the budget meant for additional academic hours for olim, using the funds instead for other school activities. In middle schools, roughly 36% were found not to have provided new immigrant pupils with the required additional study hours and help.
The research examined schools in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the South, as well as state religious institutions.
At the end of 2010, there were 103,025 students in the education system who had been born outside of Israel.
Education Ministry regulations dictate that immigrant pupils are meant to receive additional hours of study – depending on when they arrived in Israel – to help them master Hebrew and reach an adequate level of understanding in subjects such as math and history.
“School principals are simply taking away from immigrant pupils millions of shekels meant to give them a boost in their new lives in Israel,” said Danon. “The purpose of this budget is to teach immigrant students Hebrew so they can successfully integrate into society.”
He added, “The fact that no school principal has been penalized for taking this money is serious. It is not right that such an act can lead to students dropping out of school.”
MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) also expressed shock that there was no follow-up by the Education Ministry on whether these funds were being correctly.
“There is only so long that a teenage immigrant can sit in a classroom without understanding anything,” she added. “It is no surprise that they drop out of the education system after a while.”
Maya Sharir, director of immigrant absorption in the Education Ministry, said her office would now increase the follow-up on funding allocations for immigrant pupils and take action against schools that misused the resources.