Shas announced Monday evening that its chairman, Aryeh Deri, and Finance Minister Yair Lapid have reached an agreement with Education Minister Shai Piron under which the finance minister will shelve his plan to cut funding the ultra-Orthodox party's school system - including the Ma'ayan Hahinuch Hatorani network and independent Shas schools.
Shas, in turn, agreed to cooperate with the State-haredi education network and follow the guidelines of the Education Ministry, meaning the religious party would have to teach the core curriculum at its schools.
"This is a historic night. Haredi schools will be subject to standardized testing and core studies in order to gain funding," Piron told Ynet.
According to him, the Education Ministry will establish a network of State-haredi schools. "For the first time, the haredim are accepting the terms of the education system," said the minister.
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Deri said the decision not to cut the school system's budget "marks the beginning of discussions that are crucial for us all at this time."
The Education Minister's office said the decision would be reexamined after the State-haredi education network is established during the upcoming school year. "This decision joins a series of historic decisions – including the requirement to teach the core subjects, the cancelation of the Nahari Law, and more. The agreement with Deri will not affect the plan to pass within six months legislation that would require all State-funded schools to teach the core curriculum," the Education Ministry said.
The Nahari Law, passed in May 2007, obligates the local authorities to fund non-state educational institutions (with the status of "recognized" but not "official"), especially ultra-Orthodox institutions.
Lapid and Piron's party Yesh Atid explained that "this is the first time since the country's inception that the haredim are willing to accept the Education Ministry's authority and follow every directive."
Lapid with haredi MKs (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
An Education Ministry official explained that as part of the agreement, the Shas network schools will be obligated to teach the core curriculum and operate in accordance with the ministry's guidelines.
The agreement was reached amid government discussions over the State Budget, which will be voted on by July 30. The Finance Ministry has announced its intention to introduce a series of austerity measures, including a number of tax hikes, in order to lower the deficit.
Immediately following the January general elections, Lapid said he would work to incorporate the core curriculum in ultra-Orthodox educational institutions.
The Arrangements Law, which Lapid will submit to the Knesset for approval, includes cuts in the funding of unofficial educational institutions which do not teach core curriculum subjects.
According to the law, the State will only subsidize ultra-Orthodox institutions which teach at least 55% of the core subjects.
The Treasury document explains that the "threshold condition for funding is 75% of basic studies… An institution teaching less than that is funded as an exempt institution at a level of 55% and is obligated accordingly to 55% of basic studies. Therefore we suggest that the threshold condition for recognizing an unofficial institution will be core subjects which make up at least 55% of the curriculum."
Kobi Nachshoni contributed to this report
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