UTJ Tables Bill Requiring Israeli Local Authorities to Provide Basic Services for Chareidi Schools
By Eliezer Rauchberger
MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni tabled a bill that would require local authorities to provide funding and educational services to Chinuch Atzmai and Maayan Hachinuch HaTorani schools at levels equivalent to those granted to government and government-religious schools, including funding to cover electricity, water, janitorial, cleaning and other basic services. The bill was signed by Rabbi Gafni, Rabbi Uri Maklev and Rabbi Menachem Eliezer Moses, all of UTJ.
For years local authorities had assumed responsibility for these costs without the need for legislation until a High Court petition challenged that policy. As a result, two years ago the government introduced a law requiring the local authorities to fund all "recognized-but-unofficial" institutions (the official type, as it were, of most chareidi schools).
But soon this law also failed to solve the problem, as various local authorities stopped paying the bills for essential services at recognized-but-unofficial schools after the Attorney General issued a legal opinion saying local authorities were required to provide for basic needs at these institutions as well — but not for all basic needs. As a result many local authorities stopped paying the costs of water, electricity, cleaning and janitorial services, secretaries and classroom aides.
The Attorney General's sweeping legal interpretation forced local authorities to dismiss thousands of workers and stop providing services they had funded for many years, leading to a crisis at many institutions and turning the chareidi education system into private schools.
The bill tabled by the three United Torah Judaism MKs is intended to remedy the situation. In addition, a proposal was made to allow a local authority to elect to fund other categories of chareidi institutions, thereby legally reinstating the previous arrangement that existed before the legislation.