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Education Min. to continue funding Hebrew-language classes for olim

דצמבר 18, 2007. Haaretz: Anshel Pfeffer
Absorption Minister Yaakov Edri apparently succeeded Tuesday in canceling the large budget cut the Education Ministry was planning for state-funded Hebrew instruction courses, known as ulpanim.

On Tuesday, the Education Ministry asked to stop funding the ulpanim. In an emergency meeting of the Knesset's Committee for Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs, the ministry's director-general Shlomit Amichai said that the ministry "is committed first and foremost to the children studying in schools. The education reform demands an investment of billions, and the ministry's commitment to the framework of the reform will make it difficult for us to deal with other issues, including adult education."

The expected budget cut would be for more than NIS 40 million, which is half of the adult education budget allocated by the ministry. The adult education wing in the ministry is responsible, among other issues, for Hebrew-language classes for new immigrants.

However in an urgent letter that Edri sent to Education Minister Yuli Tamir, he explained that the budget cut will cause more than 350 teacher lay-offs, and therefore a decrease in the number of classrooms.

He maintained that "Hebrew language studies for new immigrants are an initial milestone in the immigrant's absorption process in Israel, and a necessity that the state must grant to them in the framework of their absorption. The budget cut will severely hurt the immigrant's chances of integrating into Israeli society, in employment and in every part of life."

Edri also wrote that a unilateral decision such as this one sends a deterring message to potential olim, or immigrants. He told Tamir he would fight this decision with all his strength.

As a result of the emergency committee meeting, Amichai announced that the budget would not be touched. The meeting concluded with the option that the ulpanim issue would be transferred in stages to the Absorption Ministry
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