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East Jerusalem Schools: Failing Grade

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Over the past 12 years, hundreds of parents and concerned NGOs petitioned Israel's High Court for redress. They demand authorities honor the Compulsory Education Law. It mandates free education.

In 2001, the Court recognized that proper implementation of this law in E. Jerusalem has been obstructed by years of neglect. It ruled action be taken to construct enough classroom space. Follow through never happened. Petitioners again complained.

In February 2011, the High Court accepted ACRI's appeal. It demanded that the Jerusalem Municipality and Ministry of Education allow every child the right to register at an official school in his or her residential area.

Alternatively, they're to be given tuition reimbursement for a recognized unofficial school to attend. Justice Ayala Procaccia at the time said:

"The infringement on equality in education in East Jerusalem is not the fate of few. It is widespread and includes a significant portion of an entire population that is not accorded its rights by law and by virtue of Israeli constitutional values."

"The rate of action and the resources delegated to this cause indicate that in the coming years, chances are this difficult and complex issue will find only a partial solution."

The Court directed the State to create proper infrastructure within five years. All eligible students must be accommodated. Otherwise, the State would be liable for financial reimbursement. Judge Procaccia added:

The "creation of a special team of experts within the relevant authority to outline a program, set a timeframe and supervise its execution to ensure an appropriate response is given to the task of developing the official educational system in East Jerusalem to suit the needs of its residents in accordance with the operative directive inherent in this appeal."

In February 2012, the Jerusalem Municipality told ACRI that it established a general education forum. As a result, there's no need for a special team following the ruling.

Subsequent appeals for proper implementation of mandated policy brought little redress. A growing educational deficiency deepens.

From 2001 - 2012, only 314 additional E. Jerusalem classrooms were built. Only 33 were added during the most recent (2011 - 2012) school year.

Presently, 91 classrooms are under construction. Only six were completed for the beginning of the current school year. From now through around June 2013, another 37 are expected to be ready.

An additional 257 classrooms are in different planning stages: 51 preparing for construction; 122 being planned; and 84 awaiting land expropriation.

When completed, E. Jerusalem will have 348 more classrooms. If population figures don't increase, the shortfall will still exceed 750. Numerous neighborhoods are entirely left out. No plans loom to help them.

Overall, E. Jerusalem's education system is "substandard and overcrowded." Too few teachers and classrooms serve too many students. Thousands get left out because there's no space for them.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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