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Finance Ministry report finds jump in young teachers leaving profession

Treasury assessment identifies 29% average salary difference between veteran education staff and newer faces; teachers’ union dismisses data as ‘manipulation’ amid wage dispute

A teacher protests against the state of the education system, in Tel Aviv, May 22, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
A teacher protests against the state of the education system, in Tel Aviv, May 22, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Young teachers in Israel are increasingly leaving the profession amid a wide gap between their salaries and those of veteran educators, according to figures published by the Finance Ministry on Monday.

The report on earnings in the education system comes as the Finance Ministry is locked in a dispute with the Israel Teachers Union that is threatening to block the opening of the coming school year.

The Teachers Union dismissed the report as an attempt by the Treasury to manipulate public opinion against the educators during the wage dispute.

Kobi Bar-Nathan, the commissioner of wages at the Finance Ministry, said in his report that in 2021 the average monthly salary for teachers was NIS 12,423 ($3,669) and that new teachers earn an average of 29 percent less than veteran ones.

The lowest decile in the education system earns a monthly NIS 8,000, compared to NIS 23,000 ($6,800) a month for the most veteran teachers and administrators in the top 10 percent.

The gaps are also found in the compensation paid for taking on additional roles such as coordinators or tutors.

“In order to inject a new spirit into the system despite the difficulties, changes must be made to teachers’ salaries,” Bar-Nathan wrote. “The report shows how the teachers’ salary structure is based on seniority and creates too great a gap between young and veteran teachers, one of the highest in the world. The salary of young teachers in Israel is too low and harms the quality of education our children receive.”

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

The report found a sharp jump in the number of young teachers leaving the profession over the past year, with 21% of teachers who have worked for two to five years seeking employment elsewhere, an increase of 60% over the previous year. Among veteran teachers, the rate remained the same as in previous years.

Tel Aviv saw the biggest exodus even as the city has the highest number of teaching positions that need to be filled for the coming year. Numbers show that 13% of teachers in Tel Aviv left their jobs last year. In Jerusalem, the figure was 11.8% and in Haifa 11.8%.

“A great responsibility rests on our shoulders as those responsible for the public treasury and we must make sure that the use of public funds will make the education system the best,” Bar-NatHan wrote, apparently in reference to the dispute with the teachers’ union. “Our commitment is to promote a good and worthy agreement for students, parents, teachers and administrators.”

The education system employed 137,000 people over the last school year. Salaries for education workers cost the state NIS 27 billion, or 6.3% of the national budget.

The Israel Teachers Union dismissed the report as “manipulation” and an attempt to “fool the public.”

It said the report is “full of mistakes based on partial and inaccurate data.”

The union said the ministry report had not pointed out other aspects of Israel’s position compared to OECD countries, such as the number of students in each class, and the number of hours spent in teaching in front of a classroom.

“We suggest that the Finance Ministry invest its energy in real promotion as well as negotiations, instead of engaging in ‘spin’ and manipulative reports,” the union said.

The union repeated its threat to not let the coming school year start unless a financial agreement is reached for education system workers.

At the end of the last school year, the union held a series of partial strikes that closed schools across the country.

The union is demanding that new teachers receive a starting salary of NIS 10,500 a month, and are also insisting on significant pay raises for more senior teachers.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a press conference at the Ministry of Finance offices in Jerusalem, ahead of a teachers’ union’s planned strike, clarifying what the Finance Ministry demands in the negotiations with the union, May 29, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

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

Liberman also wants to give school principals the right to raise the salaries of outstanding teachers so as to incentivize excellence within the profession.

The union is willing to discuss the issue of adapting the vacation system, but has refused to talk about the program to incentivize teachers until an agreement is reached on the basic salary of all teachers.

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