Local authorities will now cover the costs of electricity and water as well as cleaning, janitorial, secretarial and phone services at "recognized-but-unofficial" institutions, namely Chinuch Atzmai and Maayan Hachinuch Hatorani schools, after the Knesset passed a law sponsored by MKs Rabbi Moshe Gafni, Rabbi Uri Maklev and Rabbi Menachem Eliezer Mozes.
The law was passed in its second and third readings by 55 supporters from the coalition factions against 26 no votes from the opposition and one abstention (Ahmad Tibi).
According to the approved law, local authorities will be able to fund 100 percent of these schools' basic operating expenses, as well as lesser amounts of funding for other types of expenses. The total amount of support can come to 75 percent.
Knesset Education Committee Chairman MK Zevulun Orlev, who presented the bill before the plenum, called on Knesset members to retract all exceptions and to stand behind the bill. He noted that in recent months new legal interpretations have seriously encumbered Chinuch Atzmai and Maayan Hachinuch Hatorani schools, which for years relied on local authorities to cover basic operating expenses. Without the new law, these school systems would have been unable to start the coming school year because those new legal interpretations blocked the channels of funding that have been used for around half a century.
Therefore, said Orlev, passing the law as soon as possible is of the utmost urgency in order to enable local authorities to provide support by covering operating expenses, rather than cash payments alone, as the existing law stipulates according to those interpretations. Now the matter rests entirely in the hands of the local authorities. He also noted the bill does not entail increasing the recognized-but-unofficial schools' budgets since the bill is merely intended to regulate arrangements that have been in place for years.
During the Knesset deliberations MK Rabbi Uri Maklev praised Rabbi Gafni, who introduced and promoted the law, but could not arrive to vote in favor of it because he was sitting Shiva for his mother. Maklev also said the law was needed because of the legal interpretations, even though many jurists hold that even according to the existing law recognized-but-unofficial schools should be able to receive payment in kind. However there was no practical alternative to passing legislation, explained Maklev.
He stressed that this law does not bring any substantive change to benefit the chareidi education system, but in today's Knesset, whenever a law is related to chareidi education, immediately certain MKs start shouting objections and High Court challenges are inevitably filed. "But do not let that be of concern," said Maklev. "In the end truth will prevail."