Part Three: The Social Program

 

Education

Family

National Insurance and Welfare

Traffic Accidents

Public Health

Communications

 

 

 

Education

Responsibility of Parents

“The father must teach his son … Torah … and a trade[1]

Zehut advocates providing maximum liberty to citizens to make choices in their lives and to take responsibility for their choices, while minimizing the involvement and interference of the state in civil life as much as possible. This principle also holds regarding the education of our children.

The education system affects our lives and the lives of our children from every possible perspective: From values and culture to the economic, social, national, and  political realms.

Zehut believes that the parent, more than any other person or entity, wants the best for his children, and knows what the best interests of his children are – better than a bureaucratic-governmental system.

Zehut believes that restoring responsibility and control over children’s education to their parents will greatly improve the level of education compared with the situation today. It will improve their achievements, will allow each parent to educate the child in accordance with the child’s abilities and inclinations, and according to the worldview of the parents.

Unknown to most, according to current law, the party responsible for the education of our children is the Education Minister and not we – the parents. Another thing that most do not know is that national spending on education is now 86 billion shekels a year[2] and that this is actually the largest national expenditure when compared to all other budget items. The percentage of Israel’s investment in education is high in comparison with other developed countries, but in the PISA tests, Israeli pupils ranked at the bottom quarter of the table summarizing academic results of children from developed countries. Even if we don’t include overhead in the calculation of the budget, we are still talking about an enormous budget by any standard. We can provide our children with a much better education if responsibility is restored to the parents.

The Voucher System

The voucher system combines public funding and free competition. Each parent will receive a voucher from the Education Ministry with a monetary value, which he will be able to redeem at any school he likes, financing the studies of his children. Schools will have to attract students by convincing parents that their school in particular offers a quality academic program and excellent teachers. In this system, the Education Ministry will not dictate curricula or management to schools. Instead, it will open the market to competition between schools. The principal will be able to truly run the school, and not be dependent on countless complex systems.

As a result of the competition that will be created between schools and education networks, a wide variety of schools will be created, and the general level will rise, as always happens when a market is opened to competition. The money saved will be available to provide services to students (e.g., for teachers, guest lecturers, school improvements). A similar process occurred in Scandinavia (Sweden, Finland), where this method has been tried.

The voucher method has many advantages. It is part of a broader worldview that advocates reducing the involvement of the state in citizens’ lives, while providing maximum freedom for the citizen to make choices and take responsibility

Zehut recommends enacting a voucher system in parallel with the current public system. Our expectation is that over the years, the higher quality of schools accepting vouchers will cause a growing number of parents to remove their children from the public schools, which will encourage the public system to renew itself and join the voucher system in one form or another.

What is Money Spent on Today?[3]

According to the Ministry of Finance and CBS for 2012 (the latest year during which detailed data on the separation of education expenditures by type and by age groups was published), the total expenditure on education in Israel stood at 78.2 billion shekels, distributed as follows:

  • General Administration – 2.1 billion.

  • Preschool – 7.5 billion.

  • Elementary – 25.2 billion.

  • Primary – 19.8 billion.

  • Universities – 10.1 billion.

  • Other post-secondary – 7.7 billion.

  • Textbooks and writing implements purchased by parents – 0.8 billion.

  • “Investments and capital transfers” – 4.9 billion.

 

To illustrate the idea of vouchers, we will focus on the formal education system, from kindergarten through twelfth grade, which had about 2 million students in 2012. Deducting fixed expenses for building classrooms and other assets, we are left with a “modest” annual budget of no less than 60.4 billion shekels.

And indeed, the continuing costs (excluding buildings) of educating two million Israeli children from age 3 to age 18[4] was 60.4 billion, and the annual current expenditure per student was therefore 29,700 shekels. Dividing the annual amount per student by 12 months gives us a monthly sum of 2,483 shekels per student per month.[5]

How Would a School Look Under the Voucher System?

According to the proposed system, the Education Ministry would still exist, but its powers and mechanisms would be reduced.[6] Almost all the current amount of education expenditure from public funds would be transferred directly to the educational institutions themselves, proportional to the number of students enrolled. . Most of this amount will be used for the payment of teachers’ salaries, and the rest for continuing expenses (electricity, water, maintenance), central purchase of textbooks, and educational services such as: trips to museums and theaters, providing psychological support to students who need it, development and maintenance of infrastructure, and so on. In other words, the money of the education budget will go directly to the education of students and not to funding mechanisms, as is the case today.

It Already Works in Israel

The voucher system is already in use in Israel today. A number of years ago, maternity wards in Israeli hospitals looked like standard dormitories, or worse. The National Insurance Institute decided to allow expectant mothers to decide where they want to give birth, and to direct the childbirth budget to the selected hospitals (about 13,000 shekels per birth).

In other words, the mother receives a sort of voucher, redeemed at the hospital where she chooses to give birth. As a result, hospitals have begun to compete for expectant mothers, and maternity wards have become “five-star hotels.”

The Option of Empowering Education Networks

One of the concerns of opponents of the voucher system is over-hasty construction of innovative schools that are liable to collapse, which would be detrimental to their students and the educational process. This concern is not necessarily well-founded, because parental responsibility and market forces are likely to balance the system well and quickly.

However, in order to give support and stability to the schools, we should consider a model in which education networks will buffer between the state and schools. Instead of the state maintaining an office for every segment of the public based on pressure groups in the government and the Education Ministry, the public will choose (through the schools) the network that is appropriate to its values and which is reliable and useful for them. The network will help with the infrastructure needs of schools, such as purchase and management of equipment, textbooks and curricula, teacher recruitment, along with effective management and payment of wages.

In this model, the Education Ministry will approve networks according to minimum criteria (see the next paragraph on reducing core requirements), and the networks will be responsible for the legality of curricula and proper management of their schools.

Another advantage to developing education networks is strengthening the moral dimension in education. One of the countries that has implemented the voucher system since the 1990s is Sweden. After the system had been working for two decades, there were claims of moral deterioration in the graduates of the voucher schools.[7] It is here that the networks will provide their broad experience and encourage the construction and operation of value-based educational infrastructure in schools.

Vouchers and Networks

In the framework of the networking model, in order to create competitiveness and efficiency in the networks, each school will receive a school voucher (the value determined by the number of students and other criteria), that it will be able to grant to the network of its choice in exchange for the services and sponsorship of that network. A school wishing to work independently will have to fulfill the core criteria, as well as other criteria that a network would otherwise ensure.

Reducing Core Requirements

Today, the public discourse is rife with references to “core curriculum,” especially in the context of the clash with the ultra-Orthodox public education system. In fact, a closer look reveals that, on a surface level,  core curriculum is generally implemented. There are seven compulsory subjects that make up the core curriculum: citizenship, English, history, mathematics, literature, Hebrew, and Bible. These subjects are supposed to provide a uniform standard for all graduates of the formal education system in Israel, but in practice, every segment of the population establishes its own standard for graduation and teaches its own version of these subjects (one history for state schools, one for religious state schools, one for the ultra-Orthodox, one for the Arabs, and so on). Zehut will reduce the core curriculum considerably to only those subjects needed in order to be a graduate with the ability to function properly in Israeli society. History, literature and Bible are very important, and every parent who chooses to teach these subjects to his children is blessed, but there is no reason to withhold funding from a parent who chooses a school that does not teach them. Moreover, we will reduce the requirements in the vital core curriculum subjects of Hebrew, math and English to the bare minimum, which will allow for more innovation in networks and schools, in order to get a more professional and competitive product.

The Course of the School Year

Giving schools the freedom to act will open a healthy competition in many areas. A simple but significant example is the length of vacations and the number of vacation days per year. For example, in 2012, the number of vacation days observed by elementary schools in the state system that are not official holidays comes to 66 days, compared with an average of 55 in OECD countries.[8] In this area, the voucher system would lead to a situation similar to that in most U.S. states, where the school board determines the holidays (aside from official holidays) autonomously, and can dovetail with the number of vacation days in the workplace.

 

The Start of the Academic Year

Currently, the school year begins on the  first of September, often just a few days before the Jewish New Year holiday season. Jewish holidays require multiple vacation days at the beginning of the year. Since Israel’s workplaces are on vacation on Jewish holidays, an absurd situation is created where the vacation calendars of children and their parents are not coordinated. This also hampers the ability of the teachers to properly prepare the students for the upcoming High Holidays.

Zehut will set the beginning of the school year according to the Jewish calendar on the first day of Elul, both as a moral statement of pride in Jewish heritage values, and as an answer to the logistical problems of mixing calendars.

More Professional, Less Mandatory

Today, the Compulsory Education Law applies from age 3 until the end of the twelfth grade. Graduates of the education system should have sufficient knowledge and skills to become independent citizens capable of supporting themselves with dignity. Unfortunately, many who complete their school years and even those who matriculate are unable to find decent employment, diplomas notwithstanding. The reason for this is that the matriculation certificate has gone from being a certificate of graduation from the educational system, to an entrance ticket to higher academic education. But not every graduate is suited to and interested in academic learning, and the state has thus imposed on the student many years of professional stagnation without any proper justification, and without him having any say in the matter.

Zehut will work on two levels: on the one hand ending compulsory education at the end of tenth grade, which is long enough to undergo a process of significant education, without compromising the ability of professional advancement for those not interested in academia. On the other hand, the Education Ministry and educational networks will establish an educational system directed towards the development of those students who will continue their studies towards their future as independent adults. One track will be the establishment of pre-academic introductory courses in which students will study courses on an introductory academic level, and may be admitted to university based on their achievements in these courses. This method will reduce both the need for matriculation exams, which has become a very problematic assessment tool (countless cases of copying each year), and the psychometric exam, which is a problematic screening tool.[9]

The second track will be the restoration of trade education to schools in grades 11 and 12, and even 13. The economy is in desperate need of skilled manual workers, such as welders, electricians, chefs and carpenters, and the educational system must create appropriate certification tests, so that educational networks and schools will be able to train students who are interested. Currently there is a response to a similar demand, for example, in hotel management. instead of giving professions a façade of academic graduation, we propose to establish a system of appropriate professional training in a variety of occupations that are needed in the economy. Parents will choose what their children learn with the help of their voucher.

Homeschooling

The present compulsory education law permits parents to educate their children by means of homeschooling. The problem is that the education system does not approve of this phenomenon and places many obstacles in the way, even harassing parents and their children. Just as a small example, if a child designated as gifted is homeschooled, that child loses the right to participate in enrichment programs for which he would otherwise be eligible. Zehut recognizes the right of parents to raise their children in the way they believe, including by homeschooling. Therefore, Education Ministry regulations that limit homeschooling will be updated, so that this option will be open to any parent who wants it, without harm being caused to him or his children. In addition, we will weigh an option of redeeming a voucher at a reduced value for the purposes of homeschooling (courses, materials and so on).

 

Free is not Obligatory

To close this chapter, we return to the beginning, and will deal with young kindergarten children. In this area, it is important to emphasize the profound difference between free education and education as a legal obligation. In September 2012 the State of Israel determined that the Free Education Law would apply from the age of 3, but along with this, it also  made education compulsory from that age as of 2015. Zehut will stop this dangerous move, and allow parents to raise their young children up to the age of kindergarten in the way they see fit, without any coercion from “Big Brother.” Free preschool education is sufficiently “generous” and has its own complex implications, but there is no need to turn the tables and require parents to place their children in an educational framework at such a young age.

 

[1] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Kiddushin 29b. The Talmud states the guiding principle of the Jewish approach to education, which holds that the fundamental responsibility for the education of the son, both morally-spiritually and professionally-economically – is the responsibility of the father and the family. The family may, of course, appoint agents to carry out this duty, in the form of teachers and institutions, but the fundamental responsibility for education always remains on the shoulders of the parents.

[2] According to Central Bureau of Statistics, national expenditures on education in 2014 were 86.4 billion shekels.

[3] For details of the calculations, see the appendix “Education Voucher System Data.”

[4] Between 2012 and 2014, the number of students increased by 5% and expenditure on education increased by 10.5%, and from then until today, the numbers have risen even more.

[5] Spending per student in grades 7-12, including buildings, in 2014, was 2,985 shekels per month per student, see the calculation in the appendix.

[6] Some will move to education networks, see below.

[7] There is a debate on the subject, and it is quite possible that other factors are responsible for this phenomenon, such as the massive absorption of immigrants without grounding in local morals.

[8] https://www.knesset.gov.il/mmm/data/pdf/m03010.pdf

[9] Both in terms of how much consideration the assessment is given and in terms of its cost in time and money, which extract a high price from the Israeli economy.

Click here for appendix on Education: The Voucher Method

Restoring the Status of the Family

The family is the cornerstone of society and culture. The image and identity of a person is formed in the family unit, both as an individual and as part of the community and society. The strength of the family is the decisive factor in the development of children who grow up in it to become healthy, independent, happy and ethical adults. Therefore, preserving the strength of the family unit is a social and national task of the highest order.

Just as individual liberty and the integration of a person’s identity are essential to his growth and full potential, so too the family requires independence and the ability to function as an integrated and organic unit in order to be strong and to prosper. Although there are unfortunate cases in which the state must initiate interference in the family unit to avoid injury, as a general rule, the family knows how to protect the interests of its members, especially its children, and to ensure their well-being – more than anyone else.

Too often, when the state seeks to dictate culture and shape man’s image, it undermines the independence of the family unit and interferes unnecessarily with its decisions. The responsibility and authority of the family to see to the safety and well-being of its members and the education of its children are violated in favor of cultural and educational ideas dictated from above, or as a result of laws and regulations seeking to regulate every aspect of the lives of individuals.

This is most blatant in the painful case of the dissolution of the family unit due to separation or divorce. In this situation, the intervention of the state is required in order to ensure that the welfare and best interests of the children are secured and that the rights and duties of the parents are maintained while maintaining equality. In this case, the state should serve as a mediator and conciliator and allow the creation of a framework for cooperation between the parents in the raising of their children. Instead, it tends to take advantage of its authority to impose its own conditions on the divorcing couple, and thereby encourages disputes and legal battles that harm the couple’s ability to overcome the crisis and to continue to raise their children, often creating a breach between the children and one of the parents.

Zehut will act  to preserve and develop the independence of the family unit, especially when it comes to the education of the children and shared economic decisions.

In the case of the family unit, Zehut will change the role of the state so that it will resolve disputes rather than encouraging them. Zehut will promote a concept of shared parental responsibility for children of divorced parents and carrying the burden of raising them, affording both sides equal and fair treatment both in division of common property and in child rearing.

Strengthening the Independence of the Family Unit

Excluding exceptional cases, the state has no right and no reason to interfere in decisions made within the framework of the family unit. This is because the average family is perfectly capable of protecting the interests of its members.

Strengthening the independence of the family unit is the best way to ensure the well-being of family members. Zehut will strengthen this independence by following these steps:

  • Restoration of responsibility for children’s education to parents by affording them a choice in education.[1]

  • Restoration of natural parental authority (parental guardianship).

  • Permitting driving lessons within the family, which will allow parents to teach their children this vital skill and educate them to adopt the culture and values that accompany it.

  • Adoption of a flat tax instead of the current tax system, which discriminates against families with one main breadwinner.

Parental Responsibility for Education

Zehut will enable choice for education,[2] which will restore to parents the sole authority to choose the educators of their children and the curriculum, and allow them to take full responsibility for their children’s education. The option of choice in education will increase the involvement of parents in education and in formulating the moral and cultural world of their children.

 

In keeping with the principle of shared parental responsibility, responsibility for the education of their children will fall equally on both parents, even if they separate. Parents who separate will be required to come to an agreement about the educational institution in which their children will learn. The state will be able to bridge and offer a compromise, but will not be able to, as a rule, require the parents to send their children to an educational institution that is not acceptable to even one of them.

Flat Tax Structure and Independence of the Family Unit

In most families, the couple manage their affairs jointly. They hold joint bank accounts and shared property, live in the same house and divide the various household chores between them. Despite this, the current tax system does not allow couples the fundamental freedom to divide the family income as they see fit. Under current law, if one spouse is spending more time and effort at work or career advancement, he is liable to reach a higher tax bracket, so that the family will have less income than in a situation where the income is distributed more evenly between the spouses.

There are many reasons why a couple may decide that one of them will be the main breadwinner, leaving more free time for the other spouse to raise their children or pursue personal goals. Israel’s present tax system could tip the balance against these aspirations, harming  the independence of families and their ability to make joint economic decisions and choose a lifestyle appropriate for themselves.

Zehut proposes a different and simpler tax system – a flat tax. In this method, there are no tax brackets. Income is taxed at a fixed percentage, independent of how high the income is, and it therefore does not matter whether it comes from the salary of one spouse or the salaries of both of them together. This will allow family members to support each other and to work towards achieving common aspirations, thereby contributing to the cohesion and independence of the family unit.

 

The Court’s Conduct During the Disintegration of the Family Unit

Dissolution of the family unit is a difficult and painful experience, both for the couple and for their children. Often, the separation process is accompanied by disputes about responsibility for the children and the distribution of the financial burden involved in raising them, causing the state to intervene in another aspect of family life and in the conflict of divorce in order to resolve the dispute.

In our view, the state should act as a mediator and conciliator in this process, encouraging partnership in raising the children and not creating incentives to exacerbate the dispute and prolong the legal proceedings. To this end, a clear, substantive, fair and equal policy for deciding these disputes should be established: This policy will protect the child’s best interests and welfare without harming the rights of either of the parents. The policy should prevent abuse of children or of state institutions in the framework of the conflict between the parents. This policy will be based on the principle that the welfare of the child requires  giving equal status to both of the child’s parents,[3] except for exceptional cases that are clearly proven. Zehut will achieve this goal by means of these steps:

  • Adopting the conclusions of the Schnitt Committee concerning joint parental responsibility.

  • Eliminating the Early Childhood presumption, in accordance with the recommendations of the Schnitt Commission.

  • Adopting a predictable formula fixed by law to calculate the rate of financial support for the child, in accordance with the recommendations of the Shiffman Commission. The rate of support will be determined according to the income of the parents and according to the time devoted to child care.

  • Examining the laws and work practices of the Family Courts.

  • Limiting the ability of the court to impose the responsibility for protecting the interests of a minor on a court appointed social worker, in accordance with the recommendation of the Silman Committee.

  • Establishing an external oversight body to examine complaints about the work of social workers, in accordance with the recommendation of the Slonim-Nevo Commission and in accordance with the law that requires placing an Ombudsman in every government office.

  • Establishing appeal committees for reconsideration of the court appointed social worker surveys, in accordance with the conclusions of the Slonim-Nevo Commission.

  • Enacting clear and uniform regulations for court appointed social workers to carry out surveys, in accordance with the conclusions of the Lavie and Slonim-Nevo Commissions.

  • Establishing a commission to review the implementation of the changes and their implications and examine the need for further changes.

 

Handling Complaints of Domestic Violence

Dealing with complaints of domestic violence is a complex problem. The state is obliged to protect the safety of residents and the complaint therefore requires it to distinguish between the suspect of an offense and its reporter in order to prevent further violence, before all the details are clarified. In the case of a complaint of domestic violence, this means exclusion from the house and children, which is to say a severe blow against suspect before his guilt is proven, and often before any evidence is found to support the charges against him apart from the complaint itself. Besides, as a rule, domestic violence occurs in the home, without the presence of independent witnesses, making it difficult to investigate the complaint or reject it in the absence of conclusive evidence either way. Add to this the impact of changes made under the State Attorney’s Office Guideline 2.5,[4] under which the prosecution and the police cannot be subject to criminal investigation and prosecution in cases of false complaints of domestic violence.[5] One should also take into account the possible consequences of such a complaint on divorce proceedings, particularly on the attempt of domestic violence suspects to win parental status and visitation with the children.

In the situation that has been created, filing a false complaint of domestic violence seriously and immediately harms the suspect, is difficult to disprove, and even if it is determined that the complaint is false and and there is a reasonable suspicion that it was filed maliciously – the complainant will almost certainly not be investigated. We believe that this state of affairs requires the authorities to prepare for the possibility that a complaint may be false and to determine appropriate procedures for handling false complaints.

Preparations for the Treatment of False Complaints

It is almost impossible to know the scope of the phenomenon of false complaints of domestic violence. In the first place, it is difficult to collect reliable data and the politicization of the issue leads to the publication of unreliable results obtained by questionable research methods. We do not want to engage in a debate about the extent of the phenomenon – the damage caused to suspects due to such false complaints is so severe that we believe each case deserves attention.

Guideline 2.5 of the State Attorney’s Office has been changed to encourage domestic violence victims to complain to the police.[6] And reading the articles as written, it is possible to conclude that their purpose was to protect complainants who filed justifiable complaints and then withdrew them,[7] but the interpretation accepted by the prosecution is that we should not investigate suspected false complaints at all. Changes that were added in response to this interpretation recommending criminal investigation of false complaints intended to harm the suspect did not sufficiently affect the conduct of the police and prosecution in practice.

You can not right a wrong by doing wrong to someone else. The desire to protect victims of domestic violence and encourage them to complain to the police cannot come at the expense of the victims of false complaints. A person who suffers a false complaint is severely harmed and is as worthy of state protection as any other citizen. Besides, we should treat any attempt to harness state institutions to harm an innocent man with severity. State authorities, the police in particular, must take action against those who make malicious false complaints.

Because the police and the prosecution insist on hiding behind a broad interpretation of the changes made under the Guideline 2.5 and ignoring the changes that were added to it later in order to rule out this interpretation, we must eliminate these changes to Guideline 2.5 of the State Attorney’s Office and issue clear instructions regarding prosecution and police, according to which a well-founded suspicion of a false complaint would be grounds to open a criminal investigation.

New procedures will be formulated for the police regarding false complaints. The procedures will include, among others, diagnostic methods for false complaints which are as rapid as possible, a definition of the level of suspicion which requires the initiation of an investigation, and a definition of the scope of evidence required to recommend an indictment.

The police and prosecution will be given guidance for the implementation the change. In addition, the police will refresh procedures related to offenses of domestic violence.[8]

Adopting the Principles of Shared Parental Responsibility

We believe that the welfare of the child requires the presence and influence of both parents in his life, where the parents have equal status and joint parental responsibility for the child’s upbringing, except in extreme cases. This view is well established, supported by the findings of the Schnitt Commission and reflected in its recommendations. Therefore, Zehut will adopt the Schnitt Commission’s recommendations regarding joint parental responsibility.

Among other things, the Zehut party will act to eliminate the Early Childhood presumption in accordance with the recommendations of the Schnitt Committee and in accordance with empirical findings that determine that it is not consistent with the child’s welfare. Thus, Israel will join other advanced countries, all of whom already have canceled it.

The possibility of applying these laws retroactively will be weighed in consideration of the best interests of the child.

Calculation of Child Support by a Fixed and Equitable Formula

Under the current law, the burden of economic support for children[9] falls entirely on the father[10] and does not sufficiently take into account the amount of time the father is allowed to spend with his children or the financial situation of the mother. This law is not equitable and is not relevant to today’s reality or the idea of shared parental responsibility. In addition, the amount of financial support is calculated not only on the father’s actual income, but on his “earning potential,” which is set at the discretion of the judge and may be lacking any basis in reality. In fact, there is no way to calculate in advance the amount of financial support that may be imposed on the father to provide for his children, and the Family Court judge has wide discretion in its determination.

This issue was investigated by the Shiffman Commission, which recommended the adoption of a clear, transparent and equitable formulation that takes into account the actual income of both parents and their custody/visitation times. We will act to fully adopt the conclusions of the Shiffman Commission. The possibility of applying these conclusions retroactively will be weighed, from the concept that child support comes at the request of the state[11] and that the state therefore has the right to determine new arrangements.

This is good news for fathers, who will not have payments imposed on them that they cannot meet and which are liable to to bring them to the edge of starvation and to turn them into unwilling criminals.[12] We believe that equality in the financial burden of the child will also benefit the children, and eventually even the mothers, because it will significantly reduce the feelings of frustration and despair among the fathers and will eliminate one of the significant causes of friction between parents, making it easier for them to cooperate in raising their children. We believe that the vast majority of parents will be diligent in their child support payments without any resistance or feelings of frustration, when the size of these payments is determined in an equitable manner befitting their income.

Regulation and Review of Court Appointed Social Workers

The court can appoint a social worker to conduct a survey, designed to help the judge distribute custody/visitation time between parents and determine their parental status. Often, the judge will adopt the detailed recommendations of the survey in full. According to the findings of the Silman Commission, there has been a sharp increase in referrals to court appointed social workers.

According to the findings of the Slonim-Nevo Commission, there are cases of failure to follow social work regulations when preparing the report, and there is no uniform and clear format for writing the report. As a result, it is not always clear what the claims and conclusions in the survey are based on, and there is no clear distinction between facts and opinions. There is no external supervisory body to which one can submit a complaint about how the report was prepared or about the conduct of social workers. Complaints reach the desk of the regional or national social worker, who often was an actual participant in the preparation of the report. Naturally, most of the complaints are rejected. There is no real opportunity to challenge the conclusions of the report before it goes to the judge, which, as noted, is expected to adopt its conclusions in full.

 

This manner of conduct gives court appointed social workers great power and practically unlimited freedom of action, without any supervision or control. This is a form of conduct unbecoming a public body in a free country, especially as it deals with such a sensitive and essential issue.

Zehut will act to establish an external and independent review body that will be responsible for reviewing complaints on the social work system and its employees and be able to impose professional sanctions against them.

Zehut will act to establish an Appeals Committee so that it will be possible to appeal the conclusions of a report before it goes to the Family Court. The Appeals Committee will be comprised of external professionals and independent public representatives, as recommended by the Slonim-Nevo report.

Zehut will act to create clear procedures and an obligatory uniform format for the preparation of the report. The procedures will dictate precisely what investigations need to be performed as part of the review, and the information that the social worker will have to provide to parents before beginning to write the report. The template will require separating facts, opinions, and conclusions in the report. The template will require sources to be given for the facts and an explanation of the reasoning process that went into the conclusions.

Zehut will act to restrict the ability of the court to appoint social workers to prepare such surveys, in accordance with the conclusions of the Silman Commission.

A Thorough Review of the Family Courts

Adopting the principle of shared parental responsibility and adopting the formula recommended by the Shiffman Commission for calculating the level of child support will not give too much discretion to the Family Court regarding parental authority and child support payments, except in extreme cases where such discretion may be warranted.

In others areas, we should aim to set clear, fair and equitable guidelines. In judgments concerning children the best interests of the child should be maintained without harming the rights of the parents.

Zehut will support a re-examination of the policy of family courts, of the laws pertaining to them, and of their work and their powers by a balanced committee of jurists and experts. The committee will examine the need for the powers of the Family Court not related to significant family matters such as child-rearing and common property. Similarly, the committee will examine the guidelines used by the Family Court in handing down verdicts and their suitability in terms of key principles such as equality before the law, individual liberty and the current understanding of the child’s needs and best interests.

The committee will ensure that the discretion given to judges is not too broad and does not allow expansive interpretations of the law and the use of “judicial activism.” It will also ensure that the rulings of the family courts are based primarily on facts on the ground and neutral expert opinions, and do not rely on theoretical estimates and unfounded assumptions.

In addition, the committee will develop recommendations to prevent lengthy discussions that cause delays of justice.

 

 

[1] The method is described in the chapter on education in this section.

[2] Through a voucher system, described in the chapter on education in this section.

[3] Equal parental status means equal rights before the law to make decisions regarding the child's life. Equal status does not necessarily entail equal expenditure to financially support a child or equal custody time with the child, and vice versa; different custody times or different expenses should not damage the equal status of the parents.

[4] This guideline deals with the policy of opening an investigation and prosecuting those who submit false or contradictory evidence.

[5] In fact, these changes did not require it explicitly, but this is the policy that has been adopted. Details will come in “Dealing with false complaints.”

[6] Domestic violence crimes are considered crimes that are rarely reported, although the extent of non-reporting is questionable.

[7] At least that was the original version of the changes.

[8] By emphasizing the prohibition of the presence of people who have not investigated or been investigated in the domestic violence interrogation rooms of the police.

[9] Known as child support payments.

[10] This is true for Jewish families and the reason for it is Torah law.

[11] The state determined the amount of financial support needed for children as part of its job to resolve disputes. Financial support is not compensation for the benefit of the child but an expression of the duty the state imposes on parents to take care of the material needs of the child, according to its understanding of those needs. When the understanding changes, the state requirements must also change accordingly.

[12] Given that non-payment of child support is considered an offense.

Click here for the appendix on the voucher system

National Insurance and the Welfare System

The National Insurance Institute, despite its name, is not run as an insurance institution at all, but rather as an “economic safety net”[1] for residents of Israel – in other words, as a welfare system. To date, after a gradual expansion of its powers and a corresponding budget increase,[2] the National Insurance Institute is the main instrument for the realization of the Israeli government’s welfare policies.

Unlike typical welfare systems, which help only the most needy, National Insurance aims to provide financial security for the entire population – even people who are not interested in its services and who are able to finance their own “economic safety net.” It is difficult to see the justification for this when public satisfaction with the National Insurance Institute is lower than average satisfaction with insurance companies and when many citizens are purchasing their own supplemental insurance.

Among the range of services provided by National Insurance, there are many services that are offered in the private market with competitive terms. For example, the National Insurance Institute provides long-term care insurance and workers’ disability insurance. These are basic insurance services, which can be purchased from almost any insurance company. Another example is the old age pension. For most policyholders, this is just an additional pension insurance, similar to that which every worker is required to purchase in any case.

Although the National Insurance Institute collects funds directly, it has no real economic autonomy and is dependent on the dictates of the state and its budget. The state dictates the amount of National Insurance payments and allowances, without a mechanism requiring it to match revenues and expenditures. The National Insurance Institute accumulates deficits, which guarantee that it will eventually collapse.[3] It is clear to all that when that happens, the state will have to cover the budget deficit, despite not being prepared for it.

The expected collapse of the welfare system is not unique to Israel, but is a known and widespread problem in the Western world. However, a significant factor in the welfare crisis elsewhere in the Western world is the fall in the birth rate, which causes the percentage of the elderly population being supported to increase while the percentage of young people in the labor force who finance this support is decreasing. This is not a significant factor affecting Israel, which has the highest birth rate among developed countries. That means that there are other reasons for Israel’s future welfare crisis – budgetary irresponsibility, inefficiency, mismanagement, unjustified payments or a combination of these factors.

All in all, the National Insurance Institute is an awkward and inefficient mechanism, and many of its functions are not necessary at all. Forced reliance of Israeli residents on this institution is costing them a great deal of money and too often gives an inadequate return. Even worse, with the expected collapse of the National Insurance Institute, the “financial safety net” of millions of citizens who have paid premiums all their lives will disappear into thin air, and they will find themselves faced with a hopeless situation in their most difficult hour.

The Zehut Party proposes a program of measured reduction of the responsibilities of the National Insurance Institute by employing the free market mechanisms of efficiency and competitiveness. This program is a necessary first step in rebuilding the Israeli welfare system and removing the severe risk to the economic future of Israel’s residents.

Reducing the Powers of the National Insurance Institute

A large part of the role of the National Insurance Institute is to provide a uniform basic insurance to residents of Israel. There is no justification for this in a free country. While such a basic insurance product is essential, it is a product that the private sector can provide on its own. In fact, private insurance companies do it successfully and efficiently even now. Just as the state does not have to bake bread for there to be bread on the shelves, so it does not have to provide insurance products itself in order for them to be available to the Israeli public.

The efficiency of private companies and the quality of service they provide has often been proven to be preferable to those of state-owned companies. We must take advantage of the option of relying on them to reduce the complex and wasteful mechanism of the National Insurance Institute.

Zehut will gradually reduce the country’s insurance services. Insurance against work disability, long term care insurance and disability insurance are policies that exist in the private market. The state will gradually stop providing these services and direct residents to purchase them privately. At a later stage, termination of the grant of additional insurance services will be weighed, depending on the ability of private companies to provide them. The need to provide any of these services will be examined individually. With the reduction in national insurance services will come a significant reduction in insurance premiums.

Residents will be obliged to purchase their own insurance. All Israeli residents will be required to take out minimum insurance coverage, in place of the state insurance that has been forced upon them up until now. Employers will be obliged to insure their workers against work accidents. Because every resident and every employer will be able to choose their own insurance company, private insurance companies will need to compete for customers and will offer them good service and worthwhile premiums. When insurance companies are convinced that the State intends to terminate insurance services that are available on the open market, they will have an incentive to develop new insurance services that can replace the existing services provided by the State.

A person entitled to a pension will continue to receive it. The state, like any other insurer, cannot renounce the financial claims of its policyholders. Every resident of Israel who was eligible for National Insurance payments before the reduction in insurance services[4] will continue to receive the allowance, and will continue to be insured by the state, just as he was insured before the reduction of insurance services.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a situation in which all services that National Insurance provides today, except for social services and assistance to those in need, will be purchased on the private market.

Innovation and Efficiency of the Welfare System

According to the Zehut plan, the state will continue to be responsible for welfare, though this does not mean that the welfare system will continue to work unchanged. The failure of the welfare programs in the Western world have led many countries to rethink their welfare policies and examine alternative models of assistance to the needy.

Zehut will be responsive to developments in the field of welfare and will follow innovative ideas and implementation of alternative models of welfare throughout the world. Zehut will look into implementing these ideas in the State of Israel, and will focus on the following topics:

  • Preventing welfare fraud. We will consider methods that effectively reduce obtaining unjustified benefits from welfare, on condition that it does not unnecessarily impede those with real need and prevent them from receiving assistance.

  • Taking advantage of earning potential and avoiding the “welfare trap.” The “welfare trap” is a situation in which the welfare program creates an economic incentive for those on welfare to continue to be dependent on welfare rather than taking advantage of their earning potential. This harms the economy and places a burden on the state budget, and worse – is hurting welfare recipients themselves. Today in Israel, there are situations in which additional income for welfare recipients results in their loss of eligibility for a pension. This makes it preferable for welfare recipients not to try and increase their income, and to continue to be dependent instead on the welfare allowance. We will consider methods that avoid such harmful incentives and do not punish welfare recipients for taking advantage of their earning potential.

  • Alternative welfare systems. We will consider alternative welfare systems – municipal, community[5] and others – that can fulfill some of the functions of the national welfare system and exist parallel to it. Alternative welfare systems provide a certain freedom of choice for residents, who can choose from the most successful system, or the system best suited to their needs. Such welfare systems tend to serve smaller communities, enabling them to be better acquainted with those in need of assistance. In addition, welfare systems and local mutual aid funds allow members of the community and city to support each other and thereby assist in the coalescence and realization of a communal identity.

 

 

[1] This is how the institute itself defines its role.

[2] National Insurance revenues are about 5% of GDP.

[3] Not only economic experts warn of the collapse of National Insurance. The National Insurance Institute itself has warned of its empty coffers and certain collapse.

[4] This includes any person who was injured while the insurance was in force and the claim was not received at the time that insurance services were suspended, but was later found to be justified.

[5] Such as the Gemach (free loan society) model which is fully implemented in Orthodox Jewish society, and fulfills its role quite successfully.

The War on Traffic Accidents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Returning the Element of Responsibility to Israeli Drivers

Zehut will tackle the root problem of traffic accidents, based on the Jewish principle of the “unintentional killer,” whereby a person is responsible for the consequences of his actions and not only for his intentions. The goal is to maintain adequate insurance coverage for all MVA victims, and yet to restore full responsibility to drivers and create a different driving culture in Israel.

 

We believe that the adoption of this principle and restoration of the element of personal responsibility to Israel’s roads will save a significant percentage of the hundreds of casualties and thousands of injuries each year as a result of MVAs.

In 2005, the Scheinin Commission submitted a report to the Transport Minister. The report stated that European studies indicate that more than 80% of accidents are caused by “the human factor”[1] - drivers who do not meet requirements such as driving alertness, understanding road conditions, and compliance with traffic laws. In a 2015 study by the U.S. Department of Transportation, it was determined that 94% of accidents are caused by drivers.[2]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2005, a study was published by the Matat Institute for the Transport Ministry. The results showed that in 2000-2002, the average cost of damage caused by road accidents amounted to 12.6 billion shekels annually, or about 2.5% of GDP. If we calculate this data in relation to the number of residents in Israel, the cost amounts to 1,880 shekels per year per resident, This is roughly the amount that every driver pays for his compulsory insurance.

In the present method, the driver does not feel that the responsibility falls on him to prevent traffic accidents. The system, read: the state, the police and the courts – these are responsible for what is happening on the roads. They set the rules, they warn, they educate, and they punish. In contrast, the “job” of the driver is to act according to law and/or try not to be caught by a policeman. He does not feel any responsibility because he does not deal directly with the consequences of his actions. Someone can run into a pedestrian and not have any contact, either on an economic or emotional level, with the victim. Compulsory insurance automatically pays the victim, while the legal system might punish the offender for negligence.

The Israeli driver sees “penalties” around him – not people. In such a reality it is not possible to reduce the number of road accidents.

Compulsory Insurance Reform

The war on traffic accidents should begin to reestablish the relationship of direct financial responsibility between a person and his actions. The first step in building this relationship is a revolutionary reform in the structure of the compulsory insurance policy. When a person who causes an accident becomes liable for damages – increased road safety will result. In order to begin to restore the element of responsibility to Israeli drivers, we have defined, in consultation with experts in the Transport Ministry, seven offenses arising from conscious aggression on the roads. A driver caught violating any of these offenses[3] will be punished in accordance with the penalties set by law.

If a third party was also harmed as a result of the offense, the insurance company will compensate the victim as is done today, but afterwards, the insurance company may sue the offending driver for the full amount paid to the victim.

When the first accounts are published of drivers who injured people because of aggressive driving and were forced to spend the rest of their lives paying the full cost of the damage they caused, driving culture in Israel can be expected to change quickly. Many lives will be saved – as well as the vast sums that now burden the state budget.

Explanatory Notes to Bill P/1236/19 –5773–2013, filed by MK Moshe Feiglin:

The purpose of the proposed amendment is to restore the element of responsibility to motorists on the roads of Israel. By all estimates, the main cause of traffic accidents (more than 80% of cases) is the human factor, which also may be related to the “driving culture.”

The proposed amendment seeks to deal with the deepest foundation that creates the negative driving culture in Israel – the fundamental of responsibility. In a survey conducted by the “Geocartography” institute for the magazine “Mahar,” it became clear that to the degree that the population of young drivers has become more and more prone to reckless driving, so has insurance coverage become more important. This means that the fear of the financial consequences worries younger drivers more than responsibility to others. The goal of this  amendment is to make it clear to drivers, especially young ones, that if they behave dangerously, they are likely to harm people - pedestrians and other drivers - and if they do so, they will be directly responsible for their actions.

Thus, the bill provides that in cases where a person sustains injury due to particularly dangerous driving, the offending driver will not receive insurance coverage and the insurance company will demand the expense from the offending driver after it compensates the victim.

The proposed amendment does not replace the punishment levied for perpetration of the offense, but rather places the financial responsibility for harm to the victim on the offender, in order to encourage responsible driving on the roads of the country.

After discussions with professionals, including the National Road Safety Authority, the proposed amendment is intended to add the following to the list of driving offenses for  which an offending driver is rendered ineligible for insurance coverage: Drunken driving when the concentration of alcohol in the driver’s body exceeds twice the permissible limit; hit and run; driving at 50 kilometers per hour over the speed limit on intercity highways and 40 kilometers per hour over the speed limit on city streets; crossing a continuous dividing line; not stopping before a railway crossing; carrying cargo that exceeds the weight limit by more than 40%.

 

[1] "It is customary to assign factors of vehicle, road and environment as some of the causes of traffic accidents, while the human factor accounts for more than 80% of the reasons” –Scheinin Report, Section 2.1.

[2] https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812115

[3] Which include among other things – passing over a white line, entering the intersection when the red light has been on for more than one second, drunken driving and other clearly life-threatening offenses.

Public Health

Background – A Sick System

It is well known that the health system in Israel is a public system. In media discourse, the healthcare system in the country is seen as one of the best public health systems in the world. But, unfortunately, as is known by professionals in the field, this is far from reality, despite the fact that the level of the doctors and medical staff in the country is indeed one of the highest in the world.

Data from the Economic Department of the Health Ministry indicate that in 2011,[1] approximately 40% of the total national health expenditure came from private financing. Taking into account informal private expenses, such as unreported payments to doctors and therapists, and hospital expenses abroad, then at least half of the national expenditure on health comes from the private sector. This means that the market has voted with its feet, and while we’re talking about ideals, the reality is that citizens have already privatized half the system.

This privatization is a necessity, both because of the extended waits for carrying out tests, treatments and surgeries, and because of the shortage of hospital beds and the improvised solutions to this shortage. Privatization is also a necessity to fairly compensate excellent and talented doctors, many of whom receive low salaries in relation to their skills, and whose working conditions are very difficult.

However, this privatization is contrary to the traditional policies of Israel’s governments, and is carried out while overcoming the obstacles it presents. In practice, the government’s health budget stands at less than 30 billion shekels, while private expenditure on health is at least double that.[2]

Our Goal for Healthcare

Zehut will design a better health system, similar to our approach to education and other areas. The starting point is maintaining the current level of health services. Hence, we will be targeting public spending to the patients who need it rather than to the commodity consumed, while allowing transparent, efficient and free purchase of private health care in a variety of qualities and prices.

A health system, like a properly running economic system, is a basic necessity for a prosperous society. A person has the exclusive right to determine his own priorities. There are those who prefer to receive basic medical care at a lower cost, and there are those who would prefer to pay huge sums of money to get treatment at a higher level. We believe in respecting the choices of the people and not dictating their decisions through the government apparatus.

The assumption that the state can provide affordable health services and prevent health disparities proved to be wrong in Israel and around the world. On the one hand, we see that the most advanced health systems were developed in the free world, the United States being the foremost example. The world’s wealthiest patients travel to the U.S. to be cured and they are willing to pay the highest medical fees. The best doctors in the world aspire to work in the U.S., and there they receive the highest wages in the world. On the other hand, we see that despite the wonderful system that was built in the U.S., a political outcry has also arisen, due to the condition of a minority that feels deprived by the fact that it cannot purchase premium health products. This situation has led the United States to change the system and damage its private health system.

The Zehut Healthcare Solution

Zehut’s solution is based on a commitment to maintain the current level of healthcare services, while allowing those who are interested to invest in healthcare, improve it and optimize it. Opening the healthcare market to competition will attract both developers and investors from the world to Israel, and will create new and lucrative workplaces that will provide an incentive to doctors and Jewish professionals in the healthcare field to immigrate to Israel and settle here.

Zehut’s healthcare reform will leave the health funds in their current structure in the current stage and will not change health insurance premium payments. The proposed reform focuses mainly on hospitals.

Under the reform, hospitals will be privatized through an open tender process, and neither health funds nor the government will be permitted any hospital ownership. The developers who purchase the hospitals will commit through a long term contract to maintain the current price level and not reduce the medical services of the hospitals they purchase. Developer possession of hospitals will be limited in a way that will oblige them to compete in the national market with other developers. Health funds will purchase services for their members from private hospitals in the same way and at the same cost that they had purchased them from state-owned hospitals.

All private hospitals will be allowed to engage in medical tourism and private surgeries and will be able to devote to this purpose a fixed percentage of their beds and the work hours of their doctors and medical staff. In this way, hospitals will receive access to a new and profitable source of income that will encourage them to raise their level of care and allow them to offer competitive salaries to doctors. The expected rise in salaries for talented doctors will encourage them to remain and work in the country and even encourage immigration of doctors and medical staff to Israel from abroad.

Each developer will receive the right to establish a hotel and a shopping center close to the hospital, under the same license, which will constitute another source of income alongside their direct income from health funds and private surgeries. At the same time, the state will allow developers to build new private hospitals, with the single restriction being adherence to medical standards.

The reform is expected to bring the state treasury tens of billions of shekels immediately from the sale of government hospitals to developers, contribute to the economy through the development of medical tourism and private medicine and save the state hundreds of millions in deficits each year. Under private ownership, the hospitals will be managed effectively and become profitable and developing service providers. The potential benefits in medical tourism and private medicine and the need to compete in the national and international arena will encourage healthcare developers to invest in improving the level of health services so as to attract high-quality professionals through high salaries and good conditions. The improvement in the quality of health services and medical staff in hospitals will benefit all citizens who use their services.

Removing Restrictions on Medical Cannabis Treatment

Many studies have shown that cannabis may be useful in treating severe symptoms such as pain, depression and loss of appetite. Many patients treated with cannabis indicate improvement in symptom relief and quality of life. Other drugs do not help some patients to the same extent, or cause them serious side effects. However, there are exceptional limitations on the medical use of cannabis in Israel. Unlike other drugs, which can be prescribed at the discretion of the attending physician, the license to use cannabis can only be given by the Medical Cannabis Unit at the Health Ministry – the MCU. The MCU can reduce the dose recommended by the physician, or simply deny the request. In addition, there is a very limited list of diseases and health phenomena for which treatment with medical cannabis is authorized. These extraordinary restrictions have nothing to do with medicine – they exist only to prevent leakage of the drug into the private market.

Zehut will eliminate the Medical Cannabis Unit and the list of diseases authorized for treatment with medical cannabis. The license to use medical cannabis will be given by the physician at his sole discretion. The decision regarding medical cannabis therapy shall consider only the medical needs of the patient, and not considerations of enforcement or other extraneous considerations.

Allowing export of medical cannabis

In Israel, there are companies that grow medical cannabis, known worldwide for their unique knowledge and skills. If growing companies are permitted to export their product, they will be able to compete successfully in the international market. The export will create profits for the growing companies that will allow them to invest in research and development, generate tax revenues for the State of Israel, and respond to the medical needs of millions of patients worldwide.

Zehut will enable growers to export cannabis for medical purposes, according to the law in the target countries and the international conventions signed by Israel.

 

Communications

Freedom of expression is one of the key values in any free country. The state must not prevent the voicing of opinions just because they are not to its liking, except in very exceptional cases prescribed by law, such as libel and transmission of classified security information. To truly protect freedom of expression, the state should not interfere even in the manner in which the opinion is voiced. In other words, it should allow anyone to express anything that is permitted to be legally expressed by any means. Communication free of arbitrary restrictions and state interference is a necessary condition for freedom of expression.

Israeli media is not free media. A license is required to broadcast radio, meaning that it requires approval from the Second Television and Radio Authority. The Second Authority is ready to grant concessions only to those who meet a long line of ethical and cultural dictates on the content they will broadcast. Its role according to the law, beyond the awarding of concessions and supervision of franchises, is mainly to promote cultural and social values in the commercial media, namely private broadcasting bodies, in accordance with the requirements of the government. For example, the Second Authority is committed to “giving expression to the culture of nations, to human creativity and to the values of civilization throughout the ages” and to “foster good citizenship and strengthening democratic and humanist values.” We believe that there is no place for a body like this in a free country. The authorities should not impose their views on the public through the media, especially when this is accomplished by limiting freedom of expression while using the resources of private organs.

Zehut will act to free private communication organs from the severe limitations placed upon them; it will free communication and will protect the freedom of expression.

Open and Free Broadcasting for All

Technological means will be used to increase the number of transmission frequencies. The number of broadcast frequencies in the country is limited, and it is not currently possible to assign a frequency to everyone who wants to broadcast. However, there are technological devices that allow an increase in the number of broadcast frequencies, such as digital radio. Zehut will promote the use of such measures to increase the number of frequencies and allow more Israelis to exercise their freedom of expression over the airwaves.

Broadcasts will be by license, and not by concession. The concessions method will be eliminated. The right to use broadcast frequencies shall be leased for a period of four years to the highest bidder through auction, regardless of the content he wishes to broadcast. The  only condition for holding the license, besides meeting the financial obligation,  will be the requirement not to disseminate content prohibited by law. There will be no other restriction on broadcast content, and in particular, there will be no limit on the time devoted to advertising.

Most of the functions of the Second Authority will be eliminated. The Second Authority will deal exclusively with the distribution of broadcast frequencies and licenses to entrepreneurs who win the tender, with collection of the money from the winning entrepreneurs, and with supervision of broadcasts. The purpose of supervision will be only to ensure that licensees are not breaking the law and to punish those who violate it.

Free Press

Protection of freedom of expression means not only a ban on state interference in the content of the newspapers, but also a prohibition on interference in their business model. The attempt to pass a bill that had no purpose other than to attack the publication of a specific new newspaper illustrates the importance of this prohibition.[3] Zehut will oppose any bill that imposes restrictions on the press or harms the free press in any way.

Closure of Media Outlets Belonging to the State

We believe that a free country cannot use the media to shape the culture and values of the residents. The state should be a tool for expressing the identity of the citizens, while preserving the rights of the individual. It should not dictate culture and values. The state must not be allowed to own media outlets. Zehut will act to close or privatize all state-owned media organizations – The Broadcasting Corporation, Army Radio, Israel Army Radio, the Voice of Israel, and military journals.

 

 

[1] Data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics

[2] In the above document released by CBS, it is clear that in 2011 only 35% of national health expenditure was financed from the state budget, while the remaining 65% percent was divided between health tax, private financing and a small amount from donations from abroad.

[3] "A bill for the promotion and protection of the Israeli press,” or the more familiar “Israel Today Law” was intended to harm the newspaper “Israel Today” by banning the distribution of free newspapers, which was the unique business model of this paper out of all the popular newspapers.

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Next: Part 4: Judaism, Culture and State

Appendix to the Education Chapter:

Data on the vouchers method for education

The year 2012 is the last year for which data is available on the breakdown and distribution of education expenditures. Between 2012 and 2014 there was a significant increase of 10.5% in total expenditure on education.

From here on, all data are from 2012.

National expenditure on education and higher education amounted to NIS 78.2 billion, which was distributed as follows:

  • General administration - NIS 2.1 billion.

  • Pre-school - NIS 7.52 billion.

    • Primary - NIS 25.26 billion.

    • Secondary - NIS 19.78 billion.

  • Universities - NIS 10.09 billion.

    • Other post-secondary - NIS 7.7 billion.

  • Textbooks and stationery purchased by parents - NIS 0.84 billion.

    • “Investments and capital transfers” - NIS 4.9 billion.

 

In this document, we deal only with the education of children (ages 3 to 18). Therefore, we included only the following:

  • General administration - NIS 2.1 billion.

  • Pre-primary - NIS 7.52 billion.

  • Primary - NIS 25.26 billion.

  • Secondary - NIS 19.78 billion.

  • Textbooks and stationery purchased by the parents - NIS 0.84 billion.

  • “Investments and capital transfers” - NIS 4.9 billion.

 

The total is NIS 60.4 billion spent in 2012 on the education of our children.

 

In the 2012/3 school year there were 2,027,360 pupils aged 3 to 18, which means that the annual expenditure per student was NIS 29,792, and the monthly expenditure per student was NIS 2,483.

 

Expenses are not uniform at all ages. In order to calculate the expenditure per student in each of the three age groups, here we approximate, in the absence of explicit information, using the following assumptions:

  1. We assume that the textbook item was divided proportionately between primary and post-primary education.

  2. We assume that expenditures on general administration and capital are proportionately divided between pre-primary, primary and post-primary education.

  3. We assume that the distribution of the number of students between the three age groups in 2012 was similar to that in 2014/5, for which we have precise distribution data.

Subject to these assumptions / approximations, the student population aged 3 to 18 was divided as follows:

  • Pre-primary: 22.1% of the children.

  • Primary: 45.5% of the children.

  • Secondary: 32.4% of the children.

 

Accordingly, the breakdown of total expenditure by age groups was as follows:

  • Pre-primary: 7.52 + 1.547 (administration and capital) = NIS 9.067 billion.

  • Primary: 25.26 + 0.49 (textbooks) + 3.185 (administration and capital) = NIS 28.935 billion.

  • Secondary: 19.78 + 0.35 (textbooks) + 2.268 (administration and capital) = NIS 22.398 billion.

 

And divided by the number of students calculated in each age group, the total expenditure per student in 2012 was:

  • Pre-primary: NIS 9.067 billion for 448,046 children - NIS 1,686 per month per child in preschool.

  • Primary: NIS 28.935 billion for 922,449 children - NIS 2,614 per month for children in grades 1-6.

  • Secondary: NIS 22.398 billion for 656,865 children - NIS 2,841 per month for children in grades 7-12.

 

Again, these numbers are based on approximations, while the average number for all ages is accurate.

These figures were for 2012. Between 2012 and 2014, the national expenditure on education increased from NIS 78.2 billion to NIS 86.4 billion, an increase of 10.5%. At the same time, the number of students increased from 2,027,360 to 2,131,521, an increase of about 5%. Taking into account the increase in the number of students, and the larger increase in expenditure, this is an addition of slightly over 5% in expenditure per child.

If we assume that the distribution of expenditures for the age groups and the various sections did not change in percentages, the monthly expenditure for education in 2014 was:

  • Monthly expenses per student (average for all ages): NIS 2,609.

  • Monthly expenditure per preschool student (kindergarten): NIS 1,772.

  • Monthly expenditure per elementary student (grades 1-6): NIS 2,747.

  • Monthly expenditure per secondary student (grades 7-12): NIS 2,985.

 

The main advantage of the voucher method is to improve the quality of education by reducing the number of students in the classroom, and more than that, by obtaining higher quality teachers through the creation of healthy competition for teaching jobs. To create competition for jobs, you need an incentive, and the main incentive is pay.

Today, there are 29 students in the class on average, and teachers’ salaries are low.

Let us suppose that 70% of the expenditure of an elementary school will be invested in teachers’ salaries, and the rest will be spent on expenses.

Let us suppose a teacher also teaches in class three out of every four hours that school is in session, meaning there are four teachers for every three classes.

Thus, if we remove the non-wage monthly expenditure per student from consideration, an elementary school teacher in 2014 could earn a gross monthly salary of NIS 41,823, and a secondary school teacher could earn a gross monthly salary of NIS 45,446.

Since the voucher system will give freedom of choice to the parents of the students, a school that does not make a real effort to attract customers, that is to say, the parents of the students, will simply lose these parents to another school that will. It can be assumed that the teachers will make every effort to improve teaching, first and foremost by reducing the number of students in the classes – by increasing the number of teachers, even though this will cause a reduction in their salary (but this is better than a school without students and without a salary). Let us suppose that in the first stage, the school will lower the number of students in each class from 29 (the average today) to only 22 students per class. According to the above assumptions, in this case, a teacher in an elementary school would earn NIS 31,728 gross and a teacher in a secondary school would earn 34,476 gross.

These two levels of salary are much higher than the average wage in high-tech (NIS 23,800 gross in 2015, source: Globes), which is what will attract excellent teaching staff to the education system and create healthy competition for every teaching position, anywhere in Israel. And all this without adding a single shekel to the education budget. On the contrary, with such teachers' salary levels, it is even possible to reduce the current huge expenditure on education and still remain in a situation where everyone is satisfied.

A final note: In the beginning, even with the incentive of such a high salary, the teachers will not be able to reduce the number of students in the classes below a certain number because there will not yet be enough available teachers. But if we allow the process time to reach its full potential, and if we assume that the government will not cut the education budget in favor of other tax cuts (for example, although it is clear from these numbers that billions can be cut in education without damage, simply by changing the system), then we can reach the next result:

According to the data presented here, if after the shift to the voucher system, the teachers in the schools gradually reduce the number of students in the classes and at the same time have to lower their wages until the teachers’ salaries are equal to the average wage in high-tech today, the number of pupils in an elementary school class will be 16 and a half pupils, and at the secondary (high school) level, there will be 15 students per class.

We do not say that’s exactly how it will be. The government may decide that an average of 20 students per class is an excellent achievement, then cut billions from the education budget without hurting the educational level, and the difference will be reduced in favor of tax cuts. And it is possible that teachers will not earn the same as those in high-tech, so that the number of students in the class will drop even below 15. The point is that all this can happen thanks to one change: giving parents real freedom to decide where their children will learn.

Source List

  1. “National Expenditure on Education, by Type of Expenditure and Level of Education and by Operating Sector and Financing Sector” (Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS)).

  2. “National Expenditure on Education: 2012-2012” (CBS).

  3. “The Education System - General Data” (Knesset website) [only the data on the total number of students].

  4. “That’s what they earn in Israeli high-tech” (Globes 9.7.15) [only the data on average wages in high-tech].

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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