Ronen Medzini
April 16, 2010 - 12:00am,7340,L-3876882,00.html

Does the city of Jerusalem discriminate between educational institutions and students in the east of the city and the west? Absolutely yes, at least according to a professional opinion written by Jerusalem's municipal legal advisor Attorney Yossi Havilio.

In the opinion, written at the behest of Deputy Mayor Joseph (Pepe) Alalo of Meretz, Attorney Havilio presented the following statistic: While the city transfers about NIS 408 (about $110) per pupil to elementary schools in the west, it provides just NIS 214 (about $57) per pupil to schools in the east. These funds include all the school's activities.

"Out of the statistics handed over to me, it can be seen that there is a significant gap in the sums the municipality transfers to education institutions in the west of the city for operating costs and the sums the municipality transfers to schools in the east," wrote Attorney Havilio.

He explained in his opinion piece that the figures were provided to him by the municipal education director.

"My legal opinion is that these gaps raise concerns for alleged discrimination and violation of the principle of equality, which is a basic principle in the state of Israel and the law of Israel. There is concern that this will not stand up in a legal test," wrote the legal advisor.

He also wrote that the municipality tried to explain the gap in education investment by citing that the city is forced to invest many additional funds for renting buildings, which are added to the funds invested in school activities.

However, Havilio wrote that this claim is fundamentally flawed: "In the west of the city, the municipality usually builds schools with State funding, and therefore, there is no need to rent official schools. Thus, in my opinion, this issue is irrelevant to the comparison and certainly cannot justify the gaps, especially when they are so big."

'Not just budgetary discrimination'

According to Alalo, discrimination in Jerusalem's school system does not end here. "Unfortunately, discrimination exists not only in budgetary matters, but is also given expression in tangible terms, such as the quality of education and gaps between the students."

The legal advisor's professional opinion raises figures that show clear discrimination between education standards in the two sections of the city that are not characteristic of a properly-running government. "The municipality must do everything in order to close the existing gaps. The mayor did indeed assure me that significant changes will be made for the better," explained Havilio.

The Jerusalem Municipality flatly denied claims of discrimination and made a personal attack on the legal advisor. "The legal advisor's opinion presents a superficial and tendentious picture of budgeting for the education system in the east of the city," the municipality responded.

"The mayor and the municipality's management are aware of the gaps between Jerusalem and the rest of the cities in general and the needs in the east of the city in particular. Since the beginning of the current term, many changes have been made regarding the east of the city. Investments were significantly increased, and wide-scale effort to broaden this trend is being carried out."

According to the municipality, learning institutions in the east receive benefits exclusively for them, including the investment of NIS 13.6 million for renting public buildings, a sum 10 times more than institutions in the west of the city. As mentioned before, the reason for this is that the State provides rental funds for the west.

The municipality also asserted that the east of the city receives an investment four times larger than in the west for student transportation and an NIS 2 million (about $540,000) annual investment for printing textbooks.

"It is unfortunate that instead of helping the municipality, the legal advisor is using his profession opinions, and not for the first time, to promote his political views by falsely presenting them as facts," wrote the municipality.


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