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Ultra-Orthodox Schools No Longer Required to Teach Core Subjects: Knesset

A new law passed Tuesday exempts some Haredi elementary schools from teaching math, science, and English while remaining eligible for government funding

Jesse Bernstein
August 02, 2016

The Knesset moved very early Tuesday to reverse a 2013 Yesh Atid-sponsored bill, set to take effect starting 2018, that would’ve cut funding to Haredi elementary schools that didn’t spend at least 11 hours per week teaching English, math, and science. Following the formation of the current governing coalition in 2015, the Knesset’s ultra-Orthodox parties demanded that the law, which would have affected 40,000-50,000 of Israel’s 440,000 ultra-Orthodox students, be struck down, according to The Times of Israel:

The law … would have slashed state funding for some Haredi institutions from its current 55 percent of the budgets received by Israeli schools that comply fully with the core curriculum to 35 percent. Instead of requiring the Haredi schools to teach 10 to 11 hours per week of secular studies, as the Yesh Atid law stipulated, the proposed law would now give Education Minister Naftali Bennett the discretion to fund these institutions.

In short, reports YNet, “Haredi institutions will now be eligible for government funding without being required to teach their pupils basic subjects such as math, science, and English.”

Bennett, who had previously supported the law (it passed 41-28 this time), reversed course when he submitted the revised legislation for a vote last week, which was approved Tuesday morning. In response, Yesh Atid released the following statement. It reads, in part:

It would be one thing if they didn’t understand the damage they have done, but anyone who sits in this government understands that he has stolen from the children of Israel the basic tools to integrate into the employment market and make a living. … And yet they supported the law, because quite simply it doesn’t bother them. All that interests them is politics. In their quest to hold on to their seats, everything is permitted—even selling out the children of Israel.

Party leader Yair Lapid took a more reserved tone. “We don’t need to fight. This issue of math and English studies, unlike the equality of the burden [IDF enlistment of the ultra-Orthodox] and other issues raised here, affects only a small number of people in your community,” he said, speaking to Haredi MKs.

Jesse Bernstein is a former Intern at Tablet.