To ease burden on working parents, schools to stay open 11 days more

To ease burden on working parents, schools to stay open 11 days more

Education Ministry plan would only apply up to third grade; still requires government approval for NIS 400m budget

Illustrative: Schoolchildren waiting to cross a street. (Liron Almog/Flash90)
Illustrative: Schoolchildren waiting to cross a street. (Liron Almog/Flash90)

Israeli grade schools will run 11 days longer by next year, cutting down on holiday vacations that have been a major source of complaints from working parents, Education Minister Naftali Bennett told lawmakers on Wednesday.

If some NIS 240 million ($68 million) is made available by the second half of the current school year, the program may already begin running by the spring, and would cut six days of vacation around Passover, which this year begins on March 30, Bennett told the Knesset Education Committee.

To fund the program, the ministry must obtain cabinet approval for the expected total operating cost of some NIS 400 million ($114 million) per year, TheMarker reported.

According to the business journal TheMarker, the plan only applies to students in kindergarten through third grade, ages when parents must leave work to watch their children while schools are closed. The new school year will be about 11 days longer, with schools adding the extra days before, during or after the holidays of Passover, Shavuot and Hanukkah.

The new program will not be run by the same staff as the rest of the year, the ministry has said, in order to avoid delays due to labor contracts and union resistance. The classrooms and programs will be staffed by contract workers, and will likely not teach the regular curriculum.

Part of the funding for the new school days will come from parents, with fees depending on average income in each municipality. Wealthier municipalities will charge NIS 30 ($8.50) per child per day, or roughly NIS 330 total annually for each child, middle-earning municipalities will charge NIS 20 per child per day, and poorer municipalities will offer the extra days for free.

In school districts where schools offer private daycare during vacation days, the existing programs will mostly continue as before, but with parents receiving the service for free, or for a dramatically reduced rate.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has expressed support for the plan in principle in the past year. In his briefing before lawmakers on Wednesday, Bennett called on Kahlon to approve the program’s budget so it could get underway.

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