Fresh protests as Christian school strike grinds on

Fresh protests as Christian school strike grinds on

33,000 students remain at home for 16th day as outcry against ‘state discrimination’ in funding of schools spreads

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Christian students, teachers, and education workers, protest in front of the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, September 6, 2015. (Flash90)
Christian students, teachers, and education workers, protest in front of the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, September 6, 2015. (Flash90)

Hundreds of students in the country’s Christian school system demonstrated Wednesday in Haifa as a strike over state funding for Christian schools entered its 16th day.

The schools have refused to opens since the start of the school year September 1, protesting what they say is slashed funding for the network of Roman Catholic-run schools, which mostly cater to the country’s Arab Muslim population.

Rallies were also planned for outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem in the latest in a series of near-daily demonstrations.

Demonstrators staged protests outside the homes of Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon Tuesday, demanding funding for the schools be restored to levels before budgets were cut in 2013.

On September 6, some 450,000 Arab Israeli pupils stayed home as their schools called a strike in solidarity with the Christian schools. Protests have also been held in Jerusalem, Ramle, Nazareth and Shfaram.

School officials say they receive less than one-third of the subsidies Israel provides Jewish schools, and that their strike will continue until their demands are met.

The schools say that their 65-percent state budgeting was cut to 34% two years ago, before being reduced to its current level of 29%.

The state’s offer to return its funding up to 34%, and to allow parents to subsidize the balance, was rejected by the principals, clergy and parents, who demand the full funding they say Jewish schools get.

The Education Ministry has reiterated its assertion that there is no difference in the funding of Christian and Jewish schools of recognized but unofficial status.

It noted last week that Christians had been offered a number of ways to resolve the differences but had rejected them while choosing to close the schools “at the students’ expense.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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