Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Adar I 5768 - February 14, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Comptroller: Chareidi Education System in Dire Physical State

By G. Lazer

State Comptroller Michah Lindenstrauss issued a report for the 2007 fiscal year revealing serious of deficiencies at local authorities in Israel. This section of the report focuses on conditions at chareidi and Arab schools, safety problems on school buses and minibuses, improper political appointments, illegal cancellation of debts for individual residents, and reckless and improper handling of lands belonging to the authorities.

According to the Comptroller, several temporary classrooms in Bnei Brak are unfit for use. One hundred and twenty-five institutions lack bomb shelters and 44 schools have no playground. Inspections conducted by workers from the State Comptroller's Office at 66 educational institutions in Bnei Brak revealed that 21 institutions use trailer classrooms at least 15 years old. Most of these structures are dilapidated and some are made of flammable materials. The Comptroller determined that two schools make due with classrooms unsuitable for human use: a special-ed class at a primary school is held in the frame of an old bus without proper windows and air conditioning, and four kindergarten classes at another primary school are held in wooden freight-train containers lacking proper windows and emergency escape apertures.

The report was submitted to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik. Lindenstrauss says it carries great importance because local authority elections are scheduled to be held in November, 2008. He says the report could assist in issuing directives on how local authorities should act to provide for the needs of their citizens.

MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni told Yated Ne'eman, "The Comptroller's report provides official recognition of what [the chareidi sector] has been claiming for years regarding the poor supervision over the chareidi sector and the suffering of our children due to the infrastructures in the educational system." Rabbi Gafni said he contacted the chairman of the State Control Committee, MK Zevulun Orlev, to hold an urgent meeting on the issue.

"The State Comptroller has now revealed what we have felt on our own flesh for many years," said Rabbi Gafni, "the terrible suffering of our children on hot summer days and cold winter days, studying in structures not suitable for human habitation. Now that this issue has received official recognition, action should be taken to remedy the situation and hopefully the government will act to rectify this reprehensible discrimination of Jewish children in the chareidi sector."

The report provides figures that point to inequality in educational infrastructures. Fifteen percent of all students in Israel are chareidi, but local authorities shrug off responsibility for them. According to the Central Bureau for Statistics, in 2006 some 205,000 students were enrolled in the chareidi school system. Between 1992 and 2006 they doubled their proportion among the total number of students and their numbers continue to grow. In 2011 they are expected to represent 17 percent of all students. Between 1992 and 2006 chareidi enrollment rose 141 percent, while enrollment at government and government-religious schools grew by a mere 3.6 percent. These figures indicate a growing need for infrastructures in the chareidi educational system.

The construction of some chareidi schools was funded by the State. Over the years the Education Ministry budgeted fixed amounts for the construction of chareidi educational facilities. In many cases resources earmarked for the construction of infrastructures was only a direct consequence of coalition agreements. Various governments and education ministers, as well as the Education Ministry, did not hold meetings and did not set an official policy regarding the State's obligation to budget resources for chareidi educational infrastructures.

Lacking a clear policy, fundamental questions regarding the educational infrastructures serving 15 percent of Israel's students remained unanswered. Questions like: To what extent is the State obligated to provide educational infrastructures for the chareidi sector? Does the State have an obligation to ensure equal funding of educational resources? Should a distinction be made between recognized but unofficial institutions and exempt institutions when it comes to funding for infrastructures? Is the State responsible for ensuring that besides safety requirements that must be met to receive licensing, private schools meet other trifling requirements?

The State Comptroller conducted the inquiry during the first half of 2007 at three local authorities: Bnei Brak, Elad and Modi'in Illit. The inspections were held at 186 educational institutions in the three cities. At 125 of these institutions all or some of the classes were held in movable structures.

Reaction of the Bnei Brak Spokesman

"The City of Bnei Brak supports the conclusions of the State Comptrollers report," read a statement issued by Bnei Brak Secretary and Spokesman Avrohom Tannenbaum. "The Comptroller noted that planning and resource allocations for the construction of buildings and playgrounds at educational institutions is incumbent upon the State in all sectors, at both public and private institutions, based on High Court decision 8133/05, in which the government was obligated to arrange the construction of classrooms in the City of Beitar Illit.

"Furthermore, during the past decade the [Bnei Brak] municipality has worked extensively with the Education Ministry to secure monetary allocations for the construction of permanent structures, and over the years there has been a very noticeable reduction in the number of trailer classrooms at municipal institutions...During this period 300 new, permanent classrooms have been added [at nearly 20] municipal educational institutions. Also, in recent years $8 million for renovation work has been approved. Likewise there have been efforts to win budget approval from the Education Ministry for private and non-municipal institutions.

"The municipality has also accepted the remarks in the Comptroller's report regarding oversight of non-municipal facilities. In addition to the Safety Engineer, who is already working on the matter, the municipality is seeking approval to hire additional employees as part of the recovery program in operation at the municipality, in cooperation with the Interior Ministry."


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