Christian schools in Israel are complaining that with cuts to funding, they might be forced to close.
Christian Arab schools and their staff, students, and parents feel that they are being unfairly targeted by policies set down by the Ministry of Education, and that closing would endanger their unique cultural heritage.
Nonpublic schools in Israel receive partial funding from the government. Schools with a specific religious identity can receive up to 75% of tuition costs from federal funding. However, the funding of Christian schools has been decreasing drastically for the last decade, and the Ministry also put limits on what the schools could charge as fees to parents. The financial hardship could spell an end to these schools.
A joint statement by Christian school administrators said:
For years, the ministry has been consistently cutting the budget of Christian schools– 45% in the last 10 years. … The combination of these two things, substantial budget cuts and limiting allowable fees, is actually viewed as a death penalty for these schools.
The Ministry provides 100% of funds for 200,000 Orthodox students in religious schools.
Many of these 48 high-achieving primary and secondary schools existed before Israel was founded in 1948 and have great academic records, writes Daoud Kuttab of Al Monitor. Christian schools consistently produce some of the country’s best students.
Botrus Mansour, director of the K-12 school Nazareth Baptist, said:
The [ministry] did exactly that [100% funding] with another distinctive group, two networks of the ulta-Orthodox Jewish community. There is surely inequality in the dealing with the mentioned different groups. Both of us are in the same category of ‘recognized but not public.’
We abide to the requirement of the ministry to teach the core subjects and submit to inspection of the ministry, but [the ultra-Orthodox] don’t. Result: We receive partial funding– and such that has been sliced year after year– while [others] get full finding.
More than 500 parents, teachers, administrators, students, and clergymen protested in Jerusalem on May 27th, writes the Office of Christian Schools.
Timothy C. Morgan of Christianity Today quoted the Ministry:
The church schools, like other recognized but unofficial schools in Israel, are budgeted according to the parameters set down in legislation… The director-general also proposed to them the following alternatives: preserving these schools’ status as recognized and unofficial for the meantime while examining the possibility of classifying them as ‘unique’ schools. Then the ministry would help these schools as it does the other ‘unique’ schools that are part of the recognized but unofficial framework.
Christian educators found this an unacceptable solution, and several school leaders have stated that they were calling on Pope Francis to intervene.
Mansour said that the beginning of the coming school year in September may be postponed until the funding issue is settled.
These events are occurring at the same time as an altercation between Jewish protesters trying to prevent a Christian ritual at a site considered holy by both religions, notes The Inquirer.