Education Ministry seeks injunction to force teachers to extend school year
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Education Ministry seeks injunction to force teachers to extend school year

Pushing for 9 additional school days due to the lengthy coronavirus lockdown, Education Minister Gallant says he won’t allow ‘anarchy’ in education system

Israeli students and teachers wear protective face masks as they retun to school, at Hashalom School in Mevaseret Zion, near Jerusalem, on May 17, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli students and teachers wear protective face masks as they retun to school, at Hashalom School in Mevaseret Zion, near Jerusalem, on May 17, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In an effort to extend the school year to make up for lost class time during the weeks-long nationwide coronavirus lockdown, the Education Ministry on Thursday petitioned the National Labor Court to force teachers to work for nine additional days into the summer vacation.

The entire education system was shuttered for two months during a lockdown that began in mid-March, with lessons taking place remotely. As a result, the school year has been extended into July, but union officials for middle school and high school teachers have pushed back on Education Ministry requirements to continue teaching into the summer months.

Whereas the Israel Teachers Union, which represents elementary school staff, has agreed to the plan, the Secondary School Teachers’ Association of middle and high school teachers has not. And the Teachers Union has conditioned its agreement on the Teachers’ Association also signing the deal.

Amid the ongoing fight over the demand and a breakdown in negotiations, the Education Ministry now wants the labor court to compel the Secondary School Teachers’ Association to have all it members work beyond the end of the regular school year.

Defending the move, Education Minister Yoav Gallant said Thursday he will not allow “anarchy” in the education system fueled by “petty aspirations.”

“We all are required to put our shoulders to the wheel and do our part,” Gallant said in a statement.

Education Minister Yoav Gallant, at the Ministry of Education in Jerusalem on May 18 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Earlier this week, Gallant announced his intention for kindergartens and elementary schools (grades 1-6) to remain open until July 13 (instead of June 30). After that, he said. kindergartens and grades 1-4 will continue a summer break school program until August 6.

Additionally, middle schools and some high schoolers (grades 7-10) are set to continue studies until July 1 (instead of June 20) and 11th and 12th-graders are set to finish formal studies at the end of this week, after which students will enter their matriculation exam periods from June 22 until July 27.

The decision to take the teachers’ union to court comes days after the Finance Ministry said it would reduce the salaries of those who refuse to teach the extra days.

Ran Erez, chairman of the Secondary School Teachers’ Association, at the National Labor Court on August 27, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Monday, Kobi Bar-Nathan, director of Salary and Employment Agreements at the Finance Ministry, wrote in a letter to Education Ministry Director-General Shmuel Abuav that if teachers of grades 7-10 do not work the additional days, they will not receive full pay for the hours they have already put in giving distance learning classes during the lockdown.

Ran Erez, chairman of the Secondary School Teachers’ Association, dismissed the threat as having no legal standing.

“After the Treasury has finished abusing the high school students, it is now trying to abuse the teachers,” he said in a statement. “These are empty threats, with no legal validity.”

On Thursday, Erez said in a statement that he would “not be bulldozed” by the Education Ministry’s “belligerence” and would fight the extension in court.

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