Mobilizing ethnic equality in admissions to schools: Litigation, politics, and educational change
This study explores the impact of litigation on the mobilization of ethnic equality in the admission to Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) schools in Israel, and examines the socio-political mechanisms that have shaped this impact. It uses a case-study approach and draws on an analysis of documents and interviews. The findings confirm the conclusions of other studies regarding the limited ability of courts to produce change in schools by showing that ethnic equality was not mobilized until the Ministry of Education reformed its policy. However, the findings also show that the legal discourse empowered a group of Haredi parents to raise the rights consciousness of other parents and to support them in surmounting barriers that had impeded rights claims. The phenomenon of rights agents exemplifies how ethnic equality in school admission is mobilized in a bidirectional process: top-down judicial rulings empowered Haredi agents, who, in turn, have mobilized rights from the bottom-up to the new appeals committees in the Ministry of Education. The phenomenon also demonstrates the significance of collaborative relationships among lawyers, politicians, and social agents in order to generate social reforms in schools of ultra-religious groups.
KeywordsEducational change Courts and social change Education law Ethnic equality Haredi community Mobilization of rights Schools’ admission policies
We are thankful to Arie Kizel, Ilana Finefter-Rosenbluh, Benny Benjamin, the participants of the Religion and Education SIG at the 2015 AERA Conference, and the participants of the 2015 International School Choice & Reform Conference for helpful comments. This paper is dedicated to Yoav Lalum, who was willing to pay a high personal price for his uncompromising quest for educational equality. His quest taught many Haredi school principals a lesson in courage, integrity, and compassion.
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