As sum­mer nears, gov­ern­ment and par­ents ar­gue over cost of camps

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By LI­DAR GRAVÉ-LAZI

“The In­te­rior Min­istry and the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry have two weeks to sit down and agree on a rea­son­able cost for sum­mer camps. If they don’t do this, I will de­ter­mine the price,” Knes­set In­ter­nal Af­fairs and En­vi­ron­ment Com­mit­tee chair­man David Am­salem said on Mon­day.

The Likud MK made his re­marks at a com­mit­tee dis­cus­sion on the high costs of sum­mer camps, and the re­duc­tion of the scope of the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry’s School of Sum­mer pro­gram.

That pro­gram was es­tab­lished by for­mer Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Shai Piron in 2014 to pro­vide a low-cost al­ter­na­tive to pri­vate sum­mer camps for an es­ti­mated 180,000 chil­dren in first and sec­ond grades, as well as to some 30,000 chil­dren in third and fourth grades liv­ing in the ge­o­graph­i­cal and so­cial pe­riph­ery.

The pro­gram was to have been ex­panded last year but was post­poned be­cause of the elec­tions. This year it was sup­posed to in­clude all third and fourth graders as well, but the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry an­nounced it was post­pon­ing the ex­pan­sion of the pro­gram.

At the Knes­set com­mit­tee, Haim Bibas, chair of the Union of Lo­cal Author­ity and mayor of Modi’in, slammed the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry for its de­ci­sion.

“The Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry got us preg­nant and ran away. The School of Sum­mer pro­gram was ex­cel­lent and dra­mat­i­cally re­duced prices for par­ents, and so we need to ex­pand it to third and fourth grades and even fifth grade and kinder­gartens, as the min­istry com­mit­ted to,” he said.

He added the Fi­nance Min­istry has said it has al­ready trans­ferred the funds for the sum­mer camps to the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry.

“But for some rea­son this is not a part of the pri­or­i­ties of the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry, and the first to be harmed by this are the par­ents,” Bibas said.

Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties were pro­mot­ing an ini­tia­tive to re­duce the costs of sum­mer camps in all mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to NIS 850, but Bibas added sub­si­dies from the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry would cut this cost in half.

As the com­mit­tee was meet­ing to dis­cuss the is­sue, par­ents and pupils gath­ered Mon­day in Mazk­eret Batya, Alfei Me­nashe and Tel Aviv to protest the high costs of sum­mer camps.

In re­cent years, as the end of the school year ap­proaches, the is­sue rises to the top of the pub­lic agenda as par­ents com­plain of the enor­mous cost of sum­mer­time care for their chil­dren.

The “Sum­mer Camp Protest,” as it has come to be called, has in re­cent days gar­nered the support of par­ents across the coun­try.

Zeev Gold­blat, chair­man of the Na­tional Par­ents Union, told Chan­nel 2 news that the par­ents were call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to re­nounce the can­cel­la­tion of the School of Sum­mer ex­pan­sion, and said that if it did not do this the par­ents would con­sider es­ca­lat­ing their protests.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Naf­tali Bennett said in re­sponse that when he took of­fice the pri­or­i­ties of the min­istry changed to fo­cus pri­mar­ily on qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion.

As such, Bennett de­cided to al­lo­cate funds pri­mar­ily to re­duc­ing class sizes and adding a sec­ond care­giver to all preschools.

The min­istry added that first and sec­ond graders through­out the coun­try will still be privy to the School of Sum­mer pro­gram, which has been ex­panded in com­mu­ni­ties ad­join­ing the Gaza Strip to in­clude kinder­garten through sixth grade pupils.

The min­istry also said that un­der Bennett, the pro­gram was ex­panded to in­clude thou­sands of ul­tra-Ortho­dox chil­dren not pre­vi­ously in­cluded.

(Cour­tesy)

PAR­ENTS AND CHIL­DREN in Tel Aviv protest yes­ter­day against the high cost of sum­mer camps.

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