Haredi education budget said raised by 40%, but UTJ laments promises not fulfilled

Party reportedly threatening to oppose state budget if funding equalized with non-Haredi schools; Channel 12 says treasury officials don’t remember a hike of this size

File: Ultra-Orthodox children on the first day of school in Neve Yaakov in Jerusalem, August 9, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)
File: Ultra-Orthodox children on the first day of school in Neve Yaakov in Jerusalem, August 9, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)

With details of the two-year state budget approved by the cabinet on Friday still murky, conflicting accounts emerged Sunday about funds promised to the Haredi education system, with one report saying they will be increased by as much as 40 percent, and others saying ultra-Orthodox parties were threatening not to support the budget in the Knesset since the money promised to their institutions was insufficient.

The state budget for 2023 is set to stand at NIS 484 billion ($131.3 billion) — an $8.55 billion increase from last year — before climbing to NIS 514 billion ($139.5 billion) in 2024. The budget will now be sent to the Knesset for markup, and a vote on the first reading of the bill is expected by the end of March.

Contrary to the usual practice, no detailed version of the budget has yet been published.

Channel 12 news reported Sunday evening that the Haredi parties had marked a “dramatic achievement” and secured an extra NIS 2.5 billion ($682 million) for ultra-Orthodox schools, kindergartens and yeshivas — a 40% rise over last year.

The network quoted unnamed Finance Ministry officials as saying they don’t remember so steep a rise in an education budget in recent years.

Many of the Haredi institutions don’t teach the range of secular studies required by the state in order to receive state funding.

Additionally, the report said monthly stipends for full-time yeshiva students will sharply increase — from the current NIS 680 ($185) to NIS 1,000 ($270) or even higher. These men generally don’t enlist in the military and don’t join the workforce.

But other reports earlier in the day struck a different tone.

United Torah Judaism’s Moshe Gafni speaks with Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset on November 24, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Unnamed senior officials in the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) coalition party were quoted Sunday morning by both the Walla and Srugim news sites as threatening not to support the budget in the crucial Knesset vote if the Haredi education system doesn’t receive the full funding promised in the party’s coalition agreement with the ruling Likud.

That deal had promised that the budget for the ultra-Orthodox education system would become the same as that for the current state-funded institutions.

The officials accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “violating all the agreements” and giving money to the “nonsense” causes demanded by other ministers while ignoring UTJ demands.

Yated Neeman, a daily that serves as a mouthpiece for the Degel HaTorah faction within UTJ, published a piece lamenting that “some issues signed and promised in the coalition deals still haven’t been adequately resolved, such as full funding of the institutions and causing full equality in the conditions” of Haredi education staff relative to the non-Haredi staff.

The newspaper said Degel HaTorah was holding additional consultations and would form a team to demand the promises are fulfilled.

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