The Knesset Education Committee gave approval on Monday to bring for a first Parliamentary reading a bill introduced by MKs Rabbi Moshe Gafni, Rabbi Uri Maklev and Rabbi Menachem Eliezer Mozes to have local councils cover the costs of electricity and water as well as secretarial, janitorial, cleaning and phone services for recognized-but-unofficial schools which means those run by Chinuch Atzmai and Maayan Hachinuch Hatorani.
The proposal is expected to come before the Knesset plenum for its first reading next week and further efforts are underway to complete all stages of the legislative process before the Knesset adjourns for its summer recess in another two weeks.
The current draft of the law is a compromise between Rabbi Gafni's proposal, which was passed in a preliminary reading, and another version that instead amends the law legislated two years ago.
According to the approved proposal, local councils would be able to pay for 100 percent of electricity, water, phone and cleaning bills, and the wages of the secretaries and janitors at all recognized-but-unofficial schools — and not just Chinuch Atzmai and Maayan Hachinuch Hatorani schools, as stated in the proposal passed in the preliminary reading. Local authorities would also be able to subsidize enrichment tutoring, psychological services, etc.
Education Minister Gidon Saar said the school networks should receive priority regardless, and that later the way to do so would be found.
MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni, who presented the bill to the Education Committee, said that since the early years of the state Chinuch Atzmai, and later Maayan Hachinuch Hatorani, have served as nationwide school networks that provide for the needs of segments of the population seeking a chareidi education for their children. They operate in accordance with government guidelines, he explained, but have pedagogical independence, allowing them to follow the guidance of gedolei Torah.
In order to meet the short time frame remaining until the summer recess, said Rabbi Gafni, he and his colleagues have agreed to a compromise proposal to accommodate the existing law, which was framed by the respective education ministers. Still, said Rabbi Gafni, further changes would be made in the bill before its final reading.
MK Rabbi Uri Maklev said that the proposed law would remedy the problem brought about by the local councils' failure to pay the electricity, water, cleaning and other bills, driving Chinuch Atzmai to the brink of financial catastrophe.
"Chinuch Atzmai was founded for the sake of people living in outlying areas and we have an obligation to do our utmost for this segment of the population," added Rabbi Maklev. "What we are currently legislating is an amendment to the law, entailing no additional funding whatsoever. We are merely demanding that what the local councils provide for the general education system also be available to the chareidi education system, since the parents of the students in this system pay local taxes just like the other residents."