Adalah demands full funding for Arab church schools from Israeli Education and Finance Ministries

State funding covers 90% of budgets of Jewish religious schools, but up to maximum of just 75% of budgets of Arab church schools in Israel

On 27 May 2015, Adalah sent a letter to Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to demand full state funding for Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant church schools within the Arab education system in Israel. These schools are classified as “recognized but not official”, i.e. they are recognized by the state and follow the official state curriculum but receive up to just 75% of funding for their basic teaching hours from the state, compared to 100% in public schools.


In the past decade, cuts in the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) budget have resulted in major cuts to the state funding provided to Arab church schools. At the same time, the day-to-day costs of running the schools have dramatically increased. In addition, in the last year, the MOE has imposed a ceiling on tuition fees for the schools.  In the past, MOE funding, tuition fees, and donations from international churches and organizations have allowed the schools to operate. However, these new policies seriously threaten the viability of Arab church schools in Israel.


In the letter, Adalah Attorneys Sawsan Zaher and Muna Haddad highlighted that Arab church schools serve a large number of Arab students in Israel and are a central part of the education system of the Arab minority in Israel.


There are 47 church schools in Israel that operate in Arab towns and villages and in the mixed cities. They educate over 30,000 Arab children, both Christians and Muslims, and employ over 3,000 teachers. The church schools run from nursery to secondary school education.


Adalah emphasized that levels of educational attainment of the students taught at church schools are among the highest in the country. According to a report issued by the Ministry of Economy in December 2014, 95% of church school students passed the national matriculation exam, as compared with 90% of students at Israeli Jewish schools rated “good”.  The report further states that 93.2% of church school students received matriculation grades high enough to qualify for a university place, compared to 86.3% of students at Jewish schools rated “good”.


Despite these results, Arab church schools in Israel do not receive equitable funding from the Ministries of Education and Finance.  They are clearly discriminated against in comparison to Jewish religious schools, which also have the status of recognized but not official but teach a Torah-based curriculum. These Jewish religious schools, however, receive near-full funding from the state.


Under MOE directives, however, the Jewish religious schools receive 90%-100% of their budgets for basic teaching hours from the state, compared to a maximum of 75% for Arab church schools. 


Adalah demanded that the two ministries halt the clearly discriminatory way in which Arab church schools are currently funded by the state, and enable these schools to continue to serve the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel.