The cabinet approved legislation proposed by Minister Meshulam Nahari (Shas) by which the state would fund haredi private schools. The bill was supported by all ministers except Education Minister Yuli Tamir in a cabinet meeting Sunday.
Currently, public religious schools receive formal state funding, but private schools, among them the haredi schools, receive funding from the local authorities, based on specific criteria determined separately by each authority.
Haredis claim that, in most cases, this causes discrimination against haredi private schools, who subsequently receive less money. With the proposed bill, funds would still flow through the local authority, but it would ensure that they receive the same funds as their secular counterparts.
Discussions surrounding the law became very heated, specifically between Shas representatives and the Education minister.
‘Discrimination must stop’
Approving a (law for religious school funding) "means we'd not only be funding Shas, but also Hamas and the Islamic Movement. The law would cause privatization of education and therefore sets a precedent to fund private religious education, including Islamic education," Tamir said in the meeting.
As expected, Shas representatives bristled at her remarks. "Haredi students are not second-class students. We need to fulfill the coalition agreement," said Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Eli Yishai.
Nahari echoed these statements, adding "(Tamir) will continue the discrimination between state-educated and haredi-educated students."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert jumped on the band-wagon, saying that haredi students had faced discrimination for years and that the haredi sector has been ignored. "It must stop," he said.
It was decided that Tamir would coordinate and balance the criteria for funding with various local authorities separately, until the formal law is drafted.