The Finance Ministry and the Israel Teachers’ Union have agreed to prolong a controversial reform in the educational system, leading to threats from the Israel Teachers’ Organization regarding the beginning of the new school year, which starts on Tuesday.
The government-funded Israel Teachers’ Union — the larger of the two teacher’s labor organizations, representing teachers in elementary schools — agreed to prolong the Ofek Hadash (New Horizon) reform for another two years. The reform, presented in 2008, aims to improve teachers’ employment terms and changes the manner in which work hours are calculated in and out of the classroom. The reform has garnered criticism in the past, namely because it doesn’t enable teachers to work overtime and grants school principals additional authority over teachers.
It was largely due to those reservations that the Israel Teachers’ Organization — which represents middle school and high school teachers — has yet to accept the reform, and it has therefore not been fully implemented outside of elementary schools.
The extension of the reform will improve the terms of kindergarten, elementary and some middle-school teachers, as well as the existing participants of the reform.
Upon the announcement of the prolongation of Ofek Hadash, Ran Erez, head of the Israel Teachers’ Organization, declared a labor dispute. For the time being the dispute is not set to delay the beginning of the new school year on Tuesday, but it could lead to disruptions and possibly strikes as well in the upcoming fortnight.
According to Erez, the Sunday agreement between the Finance Ministry and the Israel Teachers’ Union was reached “under the cover of night,” all while his union has been trying, unsuccessfully, to negotiate an agreement with the Education and Finance ministries. Erez said that the reform would lead to the creation of “two separate classes [of teachers] in the same classroom,” as not all teachers would benefit from it.
In a statement released by the Finance Ministry Sunday, the reform was said to benefit “the teachers, the students and the entire system.”