Tens of thousands of Israeli school children went on summer vacation Friday after Israel’s top labor court rejected a government petition to make teachers work into the summer vacation to make up for lost class time amid the coronavirus pandemic.
As a result of the National Labor Court ruling, classes at middle and high schools were finished for the year, while kindergartens and elementary schools will continue until June 30.
The ruling on the petition, which was filed Thursday by the education and finance ministries, came hours after talks between the government and a teachers union broke down.
The government then requested the decision be delayed until Saturday night, but the court rejected this and handed down its ruling.
Due to the lockdown that began in mid-March, the entire education system was shuttered for two months, with some lessons taking place remotely. As a result, the school year was extended into July, but union officials for middle school and high school teachers pushed back on Education Ministry requirements to continue teaching into the summer months.
While the Israel Teachers Union, which represents elementary school staff, agreed to the plan to extend the school year by nine days, the Secondary School Teachers’ Association of middle and high school teachers opposed it. The Teachers Union conditioned its agreement on the Teachers’ Association also signing the deal.
Ran Erez, chairman of the Teachers’ Association, hailed Friday’s ruling.
“Our determined struggle and devotion to our shared goal solved the problem of all secondary education,” he said in a statement.
Education Minister Yoav Gallant called Erez a “gangster who has taken control of the country,” Channel 12 reported.
After the ruling, Gallant said he reached an agreement with Yaffa Ben David, head of the Teachers Union, on holding voluntary summer school classes for kindergartners and elementary school students from the start of July to August 6.
Teachers will receive additional pay if they work at summer schools, according to Gallant, who said the classes would help students “fill the gaps” caused by missed classes.
“The return to a supplementary education framework in this challenging period will also allow stability in the Israeli economy and will help the state economically and socially,” he wrote on Twitter.
Before taking the teachers’ union to court, the Finance Ministry said earlier this week it would reduce the salaries of those who refuse to teach the extra days.
Erez dismissed the threat as having no legal standing and said in a statement Thursday he would “not be bulldozed” by the Education Ministry’s “belligerence.”