Shabbat Parashat Haazinu/ Yom Kippur| 5771
P’ninat Mishpat: A Municipality’s Responsibility to Pay for Private Schooling(condensed from Shurat Hadin V, pp. 361-3)
Case: A family (=pl) lives in a predominantly Religious Zionist town, which (at the time) had only State Religious (Mamlachti Dati) schools that were mixed (boys and girls) until third grade. Pl wanted a separate school for its young daughter and so sent her to a school in a nearby city. Pl wants to be reimbursed for the travel expenses and for the portion of the tuition that is usually covered by the municipality (=def), which pl is now paying to the other city. Pl points out that def pays these fees for children who are schooled out of the municipality, whether they take part in the Charedi system, in the non-religious public schools, or in special education schools outside the town when needed. Def responds that since pl is interested in a Religious Zionist education and since the local practice of Religious Zionist education is for co-education in younger ages, something which was approved by the local rabbi, pl cannot demand a tailor-made education for their exact desires.
Ruling: Before discussing the monetary considerations, we should see whether pl has legitimate religious grounds to demand non-co-ed education for his young child. Great contemporary poskim, including Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav S. Wozner, and Rav Ovadia Yosef have ruled that co-ed education is forbidden even at a young age. They cite the Meiri (end of Kiddushin) who says that this can lead, later in life, to improper behavior between the genders. While Rav Feinstein acknowledges that according to many, this is more of a rabbinic preference than an outright halachic obligation, he still rules stringently in practice. Although leading rabbis have ruled leniently when co-ed education is the only feasible way to have proper Jewish education, this does not seem to be the case here. At the very least, pl has the right to follow the mainstream approach that separate education is correct and then expect the municipality to respect his needs like those of other segments of the population.
One could, on the other hand, argue that since there is already transportation provided to a Charedi school, which believes in non-co-ed education, the municipality can say that if this is so important, she should be sent there. However, it is apparent that pl’s Religious Zionist beliefs are important enough to it that they would not be willing to send to a Charedi school, and indeed would prefer a co-ed Religious Zionist school.
Because of the logical arguments of both sides, it is proper to implement a compromise ruling. We take into account that def is in possession of the money that pl is trying to extract and that they already pay half of the travel expenses. Since pl’s father usually drives the daughter to school and goes out of his way only partially, pl will be granted only the price of a local bus, which the girl can take from the point where the parents want to go in a different direction. Regarding the education expenses, the same arrangement should be used as with those who are in Charedi schools.
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