Israeli Parents Protest Mandatory Computer Purchases

Although middle school education in Israel is free to students, in some parts of the country, parents are protesting the practice of expense-creep in which families are on the hook for expensive ancillary purchases. Recently, this includes de facto requirements that parents fund totally or partially the purchase of a notebook computer to allow their kids to participate in courses dependent on technology.

This was the case of one 7th grader from Ra'anana's Rimon Middle School who earlier this month received an invitation to a ceremony distributing computers to all students, which was at the same time a demand to turn over NIS 2,700 (~$600+ USD) to the supplier for its purchase. The family united with others from the middle school who were in opposition to the program and began a contentious and bitter war of words with school administrators.

The school is denying that there's any bad blood between administrators and parents, and insists that prior to putting the program into effect, it took into account the students' varying economic situations. Those who can not afford to pay will be given discounts and subsidies for the computers, the school contends.

But parents are unmollified. They are especially taking issue with the fact that the school is forcing the purchase from one particular vendor and will not allow families to either purchase elsewhere or use computers they already own.

A school action committee has been formed, claiming to represent dozens of parents who are opposed to the program, mainly because of the high payment demanded – but also because of doubts over the educational benefit of the computers and concern about radiation coming from a wireless network at the school.

This is only one of the many instances of the kind of hidden costs being pushed onto families whose children attend primary and secondary schools in Israel.

Parents' payments during the current school year range from NIS 250 at the kindergartens to NIS 1,370 at the high schools. However, the amounts are liable to be higher in the wake of the optional payments demanded from parents for the voluntary purchase of services and enrichment classes.

Adding insult to injury, according to Haaretz, are the allegations that school staff are applying pressure to students to get their parents to pay up and stop protesting. A parent who declined to give their name reported that several neighbors received "veiled threats" from the school, leaving some to believe that unless the money was turned over, their children were going to find themselves subjects to harassment.

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