Education Ministry says 5,600 teaching positions unfilled ahead of school year

Elementary schools facing shortfall of 424 English, 250 science teachers; Tel Aviv and central Israel bear the brunt with nearly 3,500 missing staff

Illustrative: Students at a school in Modi'in, January 30, 2022. (Flash90)
Illustrative: Students at a school in Modi'in, January 30, 2022. (Flash90)

Some 5,600 teaching positions remain unfilled ahead of the coming school year, the Education Ministry revealed on Sunday, amid ongoing threats of a teacher’s strike before schools reopen on September 1.

The shortage is felt most strongly in Tel Aviv and central Israel, where schools are lacking nearly 3,500 teachers, according to data published by the ministry. Other regions are dealing with staff shortages in the hundreds.

Elementary schools are facing a shortfall of 424 English teachers and 250 science teachers, while special education schools and kindergartens are facing shortages of 1,103 staff, the ministry added. There were also roughly 460 unfilled science teaching positions.

Data uncovered by the Haaretz daily found that more teachers left the field after last year compared to previous years. The number of college students pursuing teaching degrees also dropped from 13,500 during the 2020-2021 academic year to 11,400 the following year.

Data published in March by the Central Bureau of Statistics revealed a 12 percent drop in new teachers this past school year.

Also on Sunday, subsidized daycare centers in Israel threatened not to open during the upcoming school year, accusing the state of “neglecting preschool education for years.”

Israeli teachers protest as they demand better pay and working conditions, in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2022. At the forefront is Teachers Union chief Yaffa Ben-David (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

State-regulated daycare services in Israel serve children aged 3 months to 3 years. They are operated by non-profit organizations under government supervision and subsidized by the state. Parents contribute a monthly sum determined by their income, usually around NIS 1,000 to 2,000 ($290-580). As space is usually limited, parents at a lower socioeconomic level are prioritized.

At a press conference, the operating groups warned they would not be able to begin the school year on September 1 due to “serious staffing shortages” and a recent recommendation by Finance Ministry to reduce government subsidies for daycare centers, which would require charging parents higher fees.

Meanwhile, the Israel’s Teachers Union held a nationwide strike last month over salary disputes with the Finance Ministry.

Teachers protest outside the home of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on June 28, 2022. (Israel Teachers Union)

According to a statement issued by a Teachers Union spokesperson, the Finance Ministry has refused to offer more than NIS 8,600 ($2,513) as a starting wage for new teachers and only agreed on a small monthly raise for experienced teachers.

The union is demanding that new teachers earn a monthly salary of NIS 10,500 ($3,077), as well as a meaningful increase in experienced teachers’ salaries.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman has conceded that salaries for new teachers must rise, but is also insisting on changing the way teachers take vacation days in order to leave parents with fewer working days on which their children have no school.

With about a month until schools reopen, negotiations between teachers and the government have largely stalled, due in large part to the caretaker government being hamstrung during the ongoing election period.

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