Court-Led Educational Reforms in Political Third Rails: Lessons from the Litigation over Ultra-Religious Jewish Schools in Israel
30(5) Journal of Education Policy 713-746, 2015
67 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2014 Last revised: 1 Nov 2015
Date Written: 2015
This paper offers a model for evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of judicial involvement in educational reforms. It uses the model to analyze two case studies of court-led educational reforms in the third rail of Israeli politics –– the curricula and the admission policies of ultra-Othodox (Haredi) schools. These case studies are located at the knotty junction of human rights, religion, and politics in education policy, generating concern in many countries. The conclusions demonstrate that that even when the courts are cautious, judicial involvement in third rail educational reforms may produce impacts that drive the cogwheels of policy-making in directions that are apt to undermine the interests of the petitioners. Therefore, the choice of courts as a forum for shaping education policy in political third rails should be prudently considered. The paper also demonstrates the need to evaluate litigation by means of a contextual, evidence-based analysis. It highlights that in certain cases, what may appear to be unjustified judicial activism or restraint is, in fact, a reasonable response, whose harmful ramifications may be attributed to the context of political third rails. Even the best judges are not immune to the well-known assertion that 'hard cases make bad law.'
Keywords: Educational reform, Education law, Educational change, Courts, Curriculum, Ethnic discrimination, Israel, Ultra-Orthodox Jews, Haredim, Religion
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