J'lem okays subsidies that favor haredi schools
Municipality authorizes criteria circumventing court ruling and attorney general's opinion. Opposition claims that despite slight changes, Arab schools still discriminated against
Ronen Medzini • Ynet
New criteria schools must meet in order to receive funding were authorized by the Jerusalem Municipality on Wednesday, three weeks after they were initially drafted.
Slight changes were made to the draft in order to make it easier for Arab schools to be included among the institutions eligible for subsidies. However, opposition members in the municipality claim them to be insignificant, and assert that Arab schools are still discriminated against especially in light of the fact that only one Arab school network will be awarded benefits.
The decision is the implementation of the Nahari Law, which allows local authorities to fund up to 75% of recognized unofficial educational institutions' budgets. About five months ago, Judge Noam Solberg blocked Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat's attempt to pass the decision, ruling that "the Jerusalem Municipality favors haredi institutions."
The municipality, it seems, has decided to circumvent the court's ruling.
Opposition criticism revolves around an article in the city's decision stipulating that only education networks that operate five institutions are eligible for city funding. The number of institutions was amended from an original seven. City officials claim that this change allows only one Arab educational network to enjoy city funding.
In the meantime, other criteria, they claim, make it difficult for Arab schools to receive funding, such as tuition caps and donation caps.
The Jerusalem Municipality's legal counsel, Attorney Yossi Havilio, addressed these criteria in an opinion he wrote. He stated that they are liable "to result in a situation in which few haredi education networks, the rest of the unofficial recognized education institutions – both in the Jewish and certainly in the Arab sectors – will not be able to meet these conditions."
According to Havilio, "After examining the all of the criteria, significant concern is raised that their wording was intended to allow only institutions of haredi education networks to receive funding. The Arab education network was placed on the list of those eligible in order to prevent the disqualification of the criteria."
Like in past cases, Mayor Barkat refused to accept Havilio's opinion.
Meretz: Barkat trying to pull a fast one
Meretz municipal faction chairman, Yosef Alalo, addressed Barkat during a hearing on the criteria, and said, "I think this is a fast one. The mayor brought up this article a year ago, we said it isn't a go, that the criteria are not egalitarian. Then, too, there was a legal advisor opinion, and the court tossed out the municipality decision.
"It is simply unbelievable that you are bringing us this catastrophe once again. Why would you be interested in large networks? For the haredim. The Arabs you want to throw aside."
"Someday this document will be studied in school's on discrimination," added Dr. Meir Margalit, a Meretz party member. "This document makes discrimination seem legal.
Mayor Nir Barkat called the Meretz claims "intolerable demagoguery."