Charedi school budget cuts on hold

Some of the more drastic cuts in the budgets of strictly Orthodox education have been dropped at the last moment from the new Israeli state budget.

The new finance minister, Yair Lapid, had pledged that Charedi schools and yeshivas that do not teach the state curriculum would have their funding slashed. But the leader of the strictly Orthodox Shas party, Aryeh Deri, has managed to get the cuts cancelled after a legal challenge.

The original budget proposed last month by Mr Lapid included a decision not to fund Charedi schools that refuse to teach the “core subjects” — including grammar, mathematics, history and English — as mandated by the Education Ministry.

The cut caused an uproar among the Charedi leadership, who accused the minister of trying to “defile the pure education of the children of Israel”.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, resisted their demands that the proposal be dropped.

Mr Deri sent the Education Ministry a legal opinion that the government could not cut school funding without offering an alternative curriculum for hundreds of thousands of Charedi children.

Following this move, and at the last moment before the budget was debated in the Knesset at the end of last week, the funding reduction proposal was dropped.

While the Shas leader was quick to announce that the cuts to the Charedi school budget had been scrapped, Mr Lapid and Education Minister, Shai Piron, responded angrily that the cuts were only being frozen temporarily.

They said that, in six months, once an alternative framework is set up for Charedi students where the core subjects are taught, the cuts will be reinstated.

In a message on Facebook, the Finance Minister wrote that, “I forgot who we are dealing with,” and that “Deri sold to the media the idea that we had given in to him.” He said that by doing so, Mr Deri, now in opposition, “prevented the possibility of us ever working together on matters of importance for his community.”

Last updated: 2:45pm, May 23 2013