Sunday, January 05, 2014

Are the budget cuts for Charedi schools in Israel really that egregious?

The Ashkenazi Charedi leadership has rejected the idea that the government have any control over what is learned in Haredi schools (the Sefardi schools seem to have accepted full government supervision in exchange for funding). Any government intervention/control is a gezeras shmad. Let us compare the Haredi schools in NY and those in Israel to see whether government mandates are really shmad.

The following table describes the current situation:

NY Haredi Schools
Israel Charedi Schools
Budget from the Government
Yes 55% of public schools
Elementary School standardized tests
High School Standardized tests
Yes (Regents)
No (Bagrut)
State Curriculum
Yes Instruction given to a minor elsewhere than a public school must be substantially
equivalent to the instruction given at the local public school
Option to opt out

As we can see in NY State the government provides no funding and yet, mandates a standardized curriculum and standardized achievement tests. In Israel, on the other hand, the government provides partial funding but mandates no requirements.

What is fascinating is that there is much more government control/intervention in the US then what is being proposed in Israel let alone what exists now. Yet no one is calling the US government evil and shmad.

I understand that in NY many of these rules/laws go unenforced and many Charedi schools actually teach very little secular studies. However, the fact that the laws are on the books is very important and at some point in the near future there is a good chance that they will be enforced.

What is telling is that this is not limited to Israel or the US. The government in Belgium recently passed a law that just went into effect that all schools without exception must teach the mandated secular studies curriculum (irrespective of whether they take government or not) and refusal to comply will be met with stiff fines and maybe even the removal of the children from the parents homes. The reason is very simple,  25 percent of Haredim are living below the poverty line, compared to less than 10 percent of the general population. The poverty caused mostly by the poor/non-existent secular education. 

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