Remote schooling resumes Wednesday after halt over teacher salary dispute

Instructors to sign agreement guaranteeing full pay for online teaching through the end of Passover; weeklong deadlock had stopped lessons, sparking parent outcry

Yongsters learning online at their home in Moshav Yashresh, central Israel, March 18, 2020.  (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Yongsters learning online at their home in Moshav Yashresh, central Israel, March 18, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Remote schooling for Israeli students was set to resume Wednesday after a dispute between educators and government officials over teacher salaries halted classes for nearly a week.

The Teachers Union will sign an agreement outlined by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday for an immediate return to remote studies, the prime minister’s office said shortly after midnight.

Under the agreement, teachers, including kindergarten instructors, will receive full wages until the end of the Passover festival in mid-April.

Summer vacation will be shortened by nine days to compensate for the lost time.

The Finance Ministry and Teachers Union were locked in negotiations since March 18 due to a labor dispute, sparking an outcry from parents.

Israel’s 2.2 million elementary, middle and secondary school students have been homebound since March 13, following a government decision to shut down schools in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

After the schools closed, for four days teachers throughout the country communicated with and taught students via the internet and via videoconferences, but last Wednesday, their union announced that teachers would stop doing so due to a dispute with the Finance Ministry over whether they should be paid in full for their remote working days.

“We told the Finance Ministry we are happy to teach remotely as long as we are paid in full for those days,” a spokeswoman for the Teacher’s Union said in a statement to The Times of Israel.

Finance Ministry officials had claimed many teachers, particularly in preschool, were not really working.

“We reached an agreement last week with high school teachers that they will continue to teach,” said a source close to the Finance Ministry. “We don’t want to hurt students’ chances of completing matriculation exams. But there are, for example, 23,000 preschool teachers in Israel who engage in remote learning by sending a task to their students every few days. That’s not full-time work.”

As of Tuesday night, 1,930 people in Israel have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and three people have died.

Simona Weinglass contributed to this report.

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