Israeli School Faces Economic Discrimination Claims
Parents in Petah Tikva’s old inner city say they will refuse to enroll their children in a middle school that the city is setting aside for their children while opening a new one in a prosperous neighborhood, allegedly for the purpose of separating pupils by socioeconomic background.
“The city council is behaving in the same pattern as before,” said Itzik Luzon, head of the parents committee at the inner city Pika elementary school. Alluding to a city policy of discrimination against students of Ethiopian origin that stirred nationwide controversy last year, he said the city “is bent on disposing of integrationist policies in Petah Tikva’s education system. It started with the Ethiopians, then the Russians, and now they’re ruthlessly excluding the lower class.”
Inner city parents say Petah Tikva’s education department bowed to the pressure of parents in the prosperous Em Hamoshavot neighborhood to set up a new school there, while children living in the city center — who went to elementary school with the kids from Em Hamoshavot — will be segregated in the Ahad Ha’am middle school.
A source in the Petah Tikva municipality said Mayor Yitzhak Ohayon chose to placate Em Hamoshavot residents to win their electoral support. “Integration has been an official policy here for 40-odd years,” the source said, “but recently the mayor realized that he gets very little support in Em Hamoshavot. He asked residents what they think could be improved, and they said they want their children to study in the neighborhood.”
The source said that’s why four elementary schools – and now the new middle school – were built in Em Hamoshavot since Ohayon was elected in 1999. However, the source said allegations of segregation are an exaggeration and that the decision was not made in bad faith.
A spokesman for Petah Tikva municipality said “the decision resulted from strictly demographic considerations.”
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