The new proposed government standards for haredi schools and their tie to state funding cuts "would simply spell the end of [our haredi] schools, as it's out to make them study core [secular] subjects [like math], which simply will never happen. We shall not let it happen."
Haredi Yeshivas Lash Out At New Proposed Gov’t Standards, State Funding Cuts
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Upset by proposed state cuts in haredi education funding, the head of the association of haredi yeshivas, Rabbi Shlomo Brilliant, attacked the cuts, which are tied to teaching the country’s core curriculum.
Schools which teach less than 55% of that curriculum will no longer receive any state funding. Those haredi schools that teach more than 55% of the core curriculum will be funded according to that percentage, maxing out at 75%. To receive any funding, all of these schools would also have to have their students fully participate in nationwide standardized testing to measure the school’s compliance and the students’ academic progress.
Brilliant alleged that the new proposed standards were worse than simple cuts in haredi schools’ budgets. The new standards, Brilliant claimed, mean the collapse of the haredi yeshiva system.
"Today we have 280 small yeshivas schooling some 25,000 students from 9th grade to 12th grade that study only Torah throughout the day, with no 'core subjects' whatsoever. State funding covers about 60% of the classes cost, approximately NIS 500 (roughly $138) per month for each student. This money goes to the teachers, and the rest is paid by the parents,” Brilliant told Ynet, insisting that the new proposed government standards "would simply spell the end of those schools, as it's out to make them study core subjects, which simply will never happen. We shall not let it happen."
Brilliant reportedly added that haredi yeshivas would have to find patrons other than the state to survive.
The haredi schools' budgets per pupil are as low as they are in part because many of the teachers receive state welfare benefits and child allotments, and the physical school buildings are often in disrepair and overcrowded.
Haredi schools (intentionally) lack the textbooks needed to teach core subjects and have limited or no libraries, often with no secular books at all. They also have no art, gym, shop, technology or science classes that would require dedicated space and special equipment. Most also have no music classes, thereby saving even more money. But these classes do not exist in haredi schools due to the haredi theology that mandates that only Torah be taught, not because cutting them saves money – although those savings are very welcome.
Haredim who spend their childhoods being educated in these haredi schools as adults often lack the basic skills needed to be employed in the 21st century. Their lack of secular education often keeps them impoverished and dependent on state welfare and private charity, and has created a whole class of non-scholars who spend their adult lives sitting in yeshivas because there is literally nothing else they can do. The government wants to break this cycle of dependency; haredi leaders want the dependency to remain in place.
The new government standards also require the Sefardi haredi Shas Party’s Maayan Hahinuch Hatorani schools and the haredi Independent Education System will only be funded according to the actual percentage of core studies up to a maximum of 75%.
A Jerusalem teacher told Ynet the new government standards are counterproductive because the Shgas and Independent schools teach 100% of the core subjects. But because the new government standards only allow them to receive a maximum funding level of 75%, these schools will save money by cutting core subjects to at or near 75%.
"Lapid effectively places spokes in his own wheels," the teacher reportedly said.
But the secular education provided at these “100%” haredi schools is often not on the same level as the secular education provided at state schools – including state Zionist Orthodox schools.
The haredi schools often give these core subjects short shrift, so even if the subjects are “taught,” the students learn less – sometimes much less – than they do when those subjects are taught elsewhere. This difference in quality may be behind the prosed 75% state funding cap, although that is not yet clear.
Speaking to the Jerusalem Post, an official of the Ashkenazi haredi United Torah Judaism party described the new proposed government standards and state funding cuts as “a massive blow to haredi society.…It’s a destructive program to harm haredi society and coerce haredim into a way of life they don’t want,” the unnamed UTJ official reportedly complained.
[Hat Tip: JK.]