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Sep 22, 2014

Tzaharon crisis coming to an end

the system for afternoon day care is pretty complicated. And each year it seems to get even more complicated, while ever remaining under the threat of being cut for budgetary reasons.

Israel wants to promote afternoon day care, tzaharonim, for little kids. To that end it subsidizes the cost for qualifying parents, in different ways. Israel wants the tzaharonim to function because it then encourages more people, especially women, to join the workforce.

I am not talking about private day cares. These are generally very expensive. They are a solution for some people, but for other people the cost is too prohibitive - they sometimes do not make enough money to justify the expense.

The government runs day cares that are subsidized. They are operated by the schools or by certified day care providers via a tender. The subssidy comes from, and therefore the authority in charge of the tzaharons is, either the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Commerce. I am not quite sure how it works, but in the past cities could choose under which authority they wanted their tzaharons to operate, and each has benefits.

Some cities chose to operate under the Ministry of Commerce. The benefits of this is that the Ministry of Commerce wants the tzaharons to function and considers it a priority. They subsidize to a point, dependent on a person's finances on a scale. The problem with this system is that there is a minimum cost of 300nis per kid per month to the parents. It is not a lot of money, but it is much more than the other option.

The other option is via the Ministry of Education. The cost of the tzaharon is much cheaper, free or almost free, and no need to prove income levels or anything like that - if your child goes to an approved school or system, that child can benefit from the free tzaharon as well.

Recently, the government decided to cut some budgets. The war was expensive. One of the budgets cut was that of the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education, in turn, turned around and said the tzaharons are the bottom of the list of priorities for us, and slashed the tzaharon budget.

That means any city operating tzaharons via the Ministry of Education has not had subsidized tzaharons since the beginning of the school year. Jerusalem, on the other hand, and probably other cities, has had tzaharons because they operate via the Ministry of Commerce.

No tzaharons means:
a. working parents have to pay private tzaharons, costing a lot of money and headache
b. working parents have to find a way to get their kids form their kindergartens to those private tzaharons, also costing more money and often not reliable
c. working parents consider quitting their jobs, often the mother, as the cost of the private tzaharon often makes their low paying job not worthwhile.
d. operators of tzaharons have to possibly fire many employees throughout many cities, as the public tzaharons have not been operating

It has been a fight. Parents have been calling public officials, both on the municipal and national levels and complaining and threatening and warning.

Today, the Knesset education committee met to discuss the issue. It seems the decision to slash the tzaharon budget was taken on the fly and did not even go through due process. According to amram Mitzna, head of the committee, the idea was never proposed to the committee and then debated and approved. It just happened. Today the committee debated the issue and came to a decision that right after sukkot holiday the tzaharons will re-open, in a slightly altered format.

Stars of the show were MK Yaakov Asher who argued that the tzaharons provide hot meals to kids, some of whom do not normally get such meals, Mayor of Bet Shemesh Moshe Abutbol who said the parents are ready to revolt in the streets soon if this does not get resolved, a mother from Beitar who described how much she has bene paying for private tzaharon since the beginning of the year and described how difficult it was to every day have to try to figure out how to get her kid to tzaharon, among others.

so, it looks like the tzaharon saga might finally be over.. for now..

sources: Ynet and Kikar

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