Adalah & Arab villages petition Israeli Supreme Court for subsidized after-school kids’ programs

Residents of Misgav-area villages in northern Israel demand subsidized programs in accordance with their socio-economic ranking; parents now pay five times more than the amount paid by parents in other regional councils with the same local socio-economic ranking.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court on 6 September 2020 on behalf of the Follow-up Committee for Arab Education and residents of the Misgav Regional Council demanding that the fees Arab parents are obligated to pay for their children's participation in the Nitzanim national after-school program be determined according to the socio-economic grouping of their specific community rather than that of the regional council.

 

According to the budgeting method used today, Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel living in towns in the Misgav Regional Council are required to pay NIS 450 per month per child registered in the Nitzanim program. However, parents in towns that have the same socio-economic grouping (or cluster) but which are located in other regional councils pay only NIS 50 per month.

 

Nitzanim is a national after school program for children between the ages of 3 and 8 operating in state educational institutions. Israel's Education Ministry states that the program is designed "to reduce disparities," and that "the program helps parents integrate into the labor market and saves hundreds of shekels a month per family."

 

The program is implemented in communities with the socio-economic ranking of 1 to 5, and in first and second grades for all socio-economic clusters. The Education Ministry subsidizes the program in accordance with the socio-economic index of the local authority, with subsidies ranging from NIS 150 to NIS 600 per child. In this table:

 

Socio-economic cluster

Kindergartens

1st & 2nd grades

Parental co-pay

(in NIS)

Education Ministry subsidy

1-3

+

+

50

600

4

+

+

300

350

5

+

+

350

300

6

-

+

350

300

7

-

+

450

200

8-10

-

+

500

150

 

 

The Misgav Regional Council, which includes 35 Arab and Israeli Jewish localities, is ranked by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) in cluster seven. However, the six Arab localities situated in the council (Salameh, Kamanneh, Ras al-Ayin, Husseiniya, Arab Al-Naim and Damida) are ranked in clusters one and two. These localities are home to about 7,800 residents, 850 of whom are between the ages three and eight and thus eligible for participation in the Nitzanim program.

 

But, since the budgeting method takes into account the ranking of the entire regional council and not the individual localities, the government assistance offered to parents in these Arab villages does not reflect their actual economic situation. Due to Misgav Regional Council's high ranking, the program is not implemented at all in kindergarten, and the participation fee for first and second graders is NIS 450 per month – five times the amount paid by parents living in Arab towns ranked in clusters 1-3 in other regional councils.

 

Parents in the Arab towns in Misgav report that the high fees do not allow them to enroll their children in Nitznim and, indeed, it does not operate in the two schools which serve these children due to what the Misgav Regional Council describes as a "lack of demand".

 

Just as there is an economic gap between the Arab and Jewish towns situated within the Misgav Regional Council, so there is also a gap in students' academic achievements. For example, the 2019 Meitzav standardized tests scores revealed significant gaps between Hebrew- and Arabic-speaking eighth graders in the Misgav Regional Council:

 

Field of study

Arab schools

Jewish schools

Mathematics

468

559

English

469

554

Science & technology

528

568

 

 

In the petition, Adalah Attorney Aiah Haj Odeh argued that the current budgeting system violates the right to equality in education and undermines the Israeli Education Ministry's declared goal of reducing social gaps. Further, there is a direct link between the provision of afterschool educational services and the ability of families to earn a living; shorter school days impinge upon the ability of parents to improve their financial status.

 

Adalah demands that the Supreme Court order the Education Ministry to adopt an alternative budgeting method that will consider the socio-economic ranking of each individual locality rather than the ranking of the regional council in which they are situated so that the children and their families may benefit from this very important program.

 

Adalah Attorney Aiah Haj Odeh commented:

 
"This discriminatory budgeting mechanism deepens what are already vast gaps between Palestinian Arab and Jewish citizens in Israel. The ostensible purpose of this after school program is to reduce educational and social disparities, but the weakest communities are being punished financially because they happen to be located in strong regional councils. If Israel's Education Ministry really seeks to reduce disparities, it must prioritize the children and families who need these programs the most."

 

CLICK HERE to read the petition [Hebrew]

 

Case citation: HCJ 6155/20 Masoud Su'ad, et al. v. The Education Ministry

 

(Thumbnail and homepage photo: Arab 48)