Israel’s Cabinet approves free pre-K education


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Cabinet voted to approve free education for children starting at age 3.

On Sunday, the Cabinet by a vote of 21 to 8 approved the implementation of the Law on Free Education for Children from Age Three. The measure was the main recommendation of the Trajtenberg committee, the 14-member panel of academics and economists appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following mass protests last summer to look at the economic problems facing Israel and come up with solutions.

Manuel Trajtenberg of the Israel Council for Higher Education and a former Tel Aviv University economics professor chaired the committee.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, opposed the bill, saying that only parents who served in the Israel Defense Forces should benefit from the law, which would exclude the Arab and much of the haredi Orthodox communities.

The Cabinet on Sunday also approved financial assistance for afternoon day care for families in which both parents work.

Netanyahu pledged that the defense budget would not suffer due to the expense of the free education program, which is projected to be nearly $1.9 billion over the next five years.

"This is an historic decision that changes the order of priorities," Netanyahu said following the vote. "The year 2012 is the year of education and security. The IDF is the country’s shield; therefore, we have increased its budget."

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