The public uproar in the wake of a High Court decision that the Guaranteed Income program for avreichim constitutes inequality has yet to abate.
In the ruling Judge Dorit Beinish wrote that she asked government ministries to provide statistics on the stipends received by both university and yeshiva students, but these figures were not submitted. Beinish nonetheless decided that Guaranteed Income for kollel students, but not for university students, is not egalitarian.
In a Knesset Finance Committee meeting, chairman MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni asked Finance Ministry Accountant-General Shuki Oren to turn over the documents and statistics Judge Beinish had requested, and upon receiving the information this week Rabbi Gafni learned that college students receive three times more in stipends than avreichim.
"The total budget the state earmarked in 2010 for the support of students in institutions of higher learning and professional training comes to NIS 366 million," Oren wrote in a letter to Rabbi Gafni, "while the total budget designated for yeshiva students comes to NIS 110 million.
An examination of the documents the Accountant-General provided shows the real discrimination: the state pours hundreds of millions of shekels into various types of stipends for college students but deigns to provide kollel students a mere NIS 110 million.
For example, the Absorption Ministry gives college students NIS 72 million toward tuition and the Education Ministry transfers NIS 99 million for the PERAH project, in which students devote four hours a week in exchange for NIS 4,500 shekels toward tuition.
Research Proposal Stipends are also available for topics that are generally defined after the work is complete. In some cases requests can also be submitted for stipends to cover living expenses. The state also provides grants according to sector, community and country of origin. The grants earmarked for minorities come to NIS 8 million.
Jerusalem also receives a share of the bounty. The state budgets NIS 17 million for students who pledge to reside in the capital. Half of this amount is designated for Subsistence Stipends, which are basically the same thing as Guaranteed Income.
Assistance funds for university students are also given openhandedly, with an annual budget of NIS 50 million. What a boon this kind of sum would be to an assistance fund for avreichim.
Knesset Finance Committee Chairman MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni says the claim of inequality the High Court relied on is simply nonexistent. "High Court President Dorit Beinish wrote that she did not receive the figures from the government ministries. Over the course of ten years the State did not pass on, for reasons of its own, the actual statistics on support for university students. I requested the data from the Finance Ministry's Accountant-General. And indeed the figures I was provided this week clearly show that the state's support for college students is three times the stipends given to avreichim, leaving no reason to cut them off from Guaranteed Income. Based on these findings we will continue to hold meetings and work to make arrangements [to ensure Guaranteed Income remains available to kollel students], without contradicting the High Court decision."