Education Ministry cancels funding plan giving Arab trainee teachers almost 50% less than Jewish counterparts

Ministry said budget gap was intended to reduce number of Arab citizens studying to be teachers; Adalah: Segregating funding on basis of ethnic origin is discriminatory.

As 2017 draws to a close, the Israeli Education Ministry has announced its intention to cancel a funding plan that discriminated against Palestinian Arab students enrolled in teaching certification programs.


Six months ago, the Education Ministry approved a funding plan that granted Arab trainee teachers just 56 percent of the 25,000 shekels (approx. $6,500 US) budgeted annually per Jewish trainee teacher.


According to the Education Ministry, the purpose of the funding plan was to reduce the number of Arab citizens studying to be teachers, due to high rates of unemployment amongst Arab – particularly women – teachers.


In response to the ministry’s discriminatory plan, Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher appealed on 17 August 2016 to Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to demand that they cancel it.


In her letter, Zaher wrote that, “The Education Ministry’s policy of segregating funding on the basis of nationality and [ethnic] origin results in discrimination between students on the basis of nationality, and limits Arab students’ access to the various teaching tracks… It likewise creates budgetary discrimination between teaching colleges: those colleges that train only Arab students will receive significantly less funding than colleges that train both Arab and Jewish students.”


Adalah further maintained that, “This budgeting policy breaches the constitutional right to freedom of occupation, as entrenched in the Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation. Government policy affecting access to training for any given profession – when conditioned upon an individual’s nationality – is only justified when it assists individuals in qualifying in said profession.”


Despite the Education Ministry's claim that the purpose of the funding plan was to reduce the number of Arab citizens studying to be teachers due to unemployment rates, the ministry is nevertheless not authorized to confront this problem by implementing discriminatory and racist policies against Arab students.


The Education Ministry moved to cancel its discriminatory budget plan in late December following a series of legal exchanges with Adalah.


In response to the Education Ministry’s announcement that it would cancel the plan, Attorney Zaher stated, “We will continue to monitor the Education Ministry’s actions to ensure that this funding plan is indeed cancelled and we will act to ensure that similar moves are not implemented in the future.”