The government approved Sunday a bill proposed by Minister Meshulam Nahari (Shas) obliging local authorities to fund maintenance of schools that belonged to "recognized, but unofficial" educational movements the same way state education was funded.
These would include schools in the haredi sector, private, secular and religious schools belonging to various non-governmental organizations.
"The government's decision is a breakthrough in making conditions of all recognized but unofficial educational institutions level, especially the haredi institutions," said Nahari.
"The new law will enable students who had suffered discrimination until now, and had studied sometimes in intolerable conditions, to have minimal conditions that are equal to those of the recognized, official educational system in Israel."
The approval is in accordance with a government resolution from December 2006, to amend the state education law.
The amendment, if adopted, would mean that any non-state school would get state funding. This includes private, non-governmental organizations, schools with only a small number of students and schools with no state supervision of their curriculum, such as the haredi schools.
All but two ministers voted for the proposal. Education Minister Yuli Tamir and Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann both abstained.
"If this law is passed today," warned the education minister, Labor's Tamir, "we will not only be funding Shas. We will also be funding Hamas and the Islamic Movement."
She added that this would be the beginning of the privatization of the educational system, including Islamic education.
Shas members resented the comments. "When you use up all your intelligent justifications, you start sowing fear among the public," said Minister Yitzhak Cohen.
Shas chairman, Minister Eli Yishai, said: "Haredi students are not second-class. The coalition agreement must be carried out to the letter. Nahari criticized Tamir: "She will continue the discrimination between children in state education and haredi children."