Yesterday (07.08.2019), the HCJ rejected ACRI and Haifa University’s Educational Law and Policy Clinic’s petition regarding annual payments of thousands of shekels from public education institutions for the purchase of technological supplies (tablets and laptops) where computing is an integral part of the studies. The court determined that the Education Ministry has the authority to collect various payments, and the regulations for payments set in the Executive Director’s guidelines are not unreasonable. The court also decided that there is no proof that simply allowing parental payment within the education system violates the right to equality in education, highlighting that other values are also at play, including parental autonomy and additional goals of state education.
ACRI is disappointed by this verdict, which negates the basic principle of the right to a free education. The decision also highlights the substantial gap between the court and the lived experiences of families that face daily financial struggles. It reflects a perspective according to which investing privately in education is done by choice. Poverty, however, is not a matter of choice. Allowing for these requested payments means that children whose parents are unable to pay, even those who are deeply dedicated to their children’s education, will be prevented from accessing the additional, at-cost educational services that are essential to acceptance and integration into higher education.
ACRI Attorney Tal Hassin, who submitted the petition along with Attorney Haran Reichman from the Haifa University Education Law and Policy Clinic, said: “This verdict reflects an approach in which state responsibility to provide education and equality in education are only in regards to core studies. It is a classic neo-liberal approach that believes it is the individual’s right to determine their own prosperity, without considering the growing social gaps which threaten the strength of society as a whole. In fact, this verdict authorizes the existence of two separate educational systems - one for the wealthy and another for the poor. The verdict ignores proven industry research about the destructive impact collecting private money in public education has on the education system and on student achievement across all levels of the population. A prime example of this is Finland, which bans parental payments in public education and is the perennial leader in the OECD education rankings system.”