Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Kislev 5766 - December 14, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Betzedek Wins Petition on Tuition for Chinuch Atzmai Commuter Students

by Betzalel Kahn and Y. Ariel

Another court victory for Betzedek: A Haifa court ruled that the "Gafni Law" must be enforced at all local authorities as of the time of legislation and required the city of Kiryat Yam to pay the tuition—including back tuition payments—for local students who commute to Chinuch Atzmai schools in Haifa, and to reimburse Betzedek for the court costs and attorney fees.

The precedent-setting decision will prevent local authorities around the country from charging students who commute to Chinuch Atzmai institutions outside of their respective places of residence. MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni's efforts to rectify the situation through Knesset legislation resulted in an amendment to the Mandatory Education Law, which took effect in 5763. Known as the Gafni Law it requires local authorities to pay tuition fees even for students who elect to enroll at Chinuch Atzmai elementary schools and when all upper-grade recognized but unofficial institutions are unavailable locally.

Despite the legislation a few authorities claimed the law does not obligate them since the Education Minister has yet to draft regulations to implement the law. The regulations were drafted recently following pressure by chareidi MKs, yet a handful of authority heads continued to ignore the law, forcing parents who insisted on chareidi education for their children to shoulder substantial financial burdens.

The City of Kiryat Yam stood out for its refusal to pay tuition fees for local girls enrolled at Bais Yaakov schools in Haifa. The students' parents and Rabbi Gafni sought the help of Attorney Rabbi Mordechai Green, director of Betzedek, a legal assistance organization founded by Agudas Yisroel of America. Rabbi Green agreed to take the case, which was of great interest to the chareidi public.

The organization warned the City of Kiryat Yam in writing, but city officials continued to disregard the Gafni Law. As a result two and a half months ago Betzedek filed an administrative petition against the City of Kiryat Yam and its head, Attorney Shmuel Sisso, asking the court to enforce the law. The organization stressed the great importance of enrolling students in Chinuch Atzmai institutions, a matter the court upheld in another case, saying private education should be encouraged as well, as stated in the Gafni Law.

The petition emphasizes the financial damage incurred by the students' parents and the infringement on their fundamental rights as a result of the discriminatory policy.

In light of the legal advice obtained after learning of the petition and its contents, the City of Kiryat Yam, the City of Haifa and the District Prosecutor's Office, representing the Education Minister, opened negotiating channels with Betzedek. When its claims were refuted one after the next the City agreed to pay, but only from the time the regulations were introduced. Meanwhile Betzedek insisted the City pay not only the regular fees due to the City of Haifa, but also that it reimburse the students' parents in full.

The negotiations had their ups and downs but besiyata deShmaya the resoluteness Betzedek displayed and the rapidly approaching court date had their effect and eventually the City of Kiryat Yam agreed to accept all of the demands stated in the court petition.

A judge at the Haifa Court for Administrative Affairs issued a ruling upholding all of the demands, requiring full payment to the respective parties within 30 days. Although the ruling only applies to Kiryat Yam other local authorities are now expected to adhere to the Gafni Law in order to avoid the heavy legal costs incurred by disregarding the law.


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