Lawmakers okay NIS 500m to teach disadvantaged kids

After-school enrichment programs mainly meant to benefit children from ultra-Orthodox, Arab communities and others from lower socioeconomic backgrounds

Orthodox schoolgirls looking at posters in Beit Shemesh in June 2014. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)
Orthodox schoolgirls looking at posters in Beit Shemesh in June 2014. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)

The Knesset approved on Wednesday a bill allocating some NIS 500 million ($130 million) to the budget for after-school informal education for children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

The added funds are meant to serve mainly children from the ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities and those living outside central Israel.

Some reports in the Hebrew press suggested that the money would be deducted from the budget of the general school system, some NIS 40 billion, but Channel 2 reported Thursday that this was not the case.

The extra funds bring the informal education budget to NIS 1 billion.

According to a report in financial daily The Marker, the money will benefit ultra-Orthodox children whose non-state schools refuse to teach core curriculum subjects such as math and English. The enrichment programs will teach them skills, such as computer use, meant to help them integrate into the workforce in the future, The Marker reported.

On Monday the Knesset approved a bill countermanding a law that, beginning in 2018, would have reduced funding for ultra-Orthodox schools that do not devote a minimum number of weekly hours to core secular subjects such as math, English, and science.

There are 440,000 ultra-Orthodox students in Israel (about 20% of all students), and 40,000-50,000 who study at schools that do not teach the minimum mandated core curriculum.

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