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About 7,000 teachers leave the school system permanently every year, and that number is rising.

This is the finding of a Central Bureau of Statistics survey that was submitted recently to Education Ministry officials. While in 1991, 6.9 percent of all teachers left the education system, by 2002 the percentage had climbed to 8.8 percent. The study found that in the secular state schools, attrition in the first year of teaching was between 25 percent and 30 percent.

The figures include regular retirement, early retirement, medical release and dismissals. Earlier studies estimated the annual attrition rate at about 5,000. According to Education Ministry Director General Shmuel Abuav, however, despite the increased attrition rate there is no shortage of teachers except in certain subjects such as English and the sciences.

The 7,000 teachers who leave the system annually represent about 6 percent of all teachers. The attrition rate is higher in the Jewish sector than in the Arab one, at 7 percent and 4 percent, respectively. This rate rose in both sectors between 1991 and 2002 but the increase was greater in the Arab sector. For high school teachers, the attrition rate reached 10 percent in the Jewish sector and 8.3 percent in the Arab sector.

The attrition rate for first-year teachers in state elementary schools was 25 percent, while in junior high it was 32 percent and in high schools, 28.1 percent.

The rates were similar for the state religious schools, if even higher (at 34.5 percent) for junior high. In the Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors, on the other hand, first-year attrition rates were considerably lower.

"If we had more early-retirement provisions we would permit more teachers to leave," Abuav said. "There are 4,000 teachers who want to leave now and we cannot allow it. Two more years are needed for that," he said, adding, "One regrets the leaving of young teachers so soon after beginning to work in education. As a result, the average age of teachers is only rising."

The report also reflects the increase in teachers in Israel's growing Haredi school system. In 2005 there were 55,600 teachers in the secular state system (an increase of 26 percent over 1991).

In the same period, the number of teachers in the state religious schools rose by 38 percent, to 19,400, while in the Haredi sector the increase was 332 percent, to 14,600 teachers

Treasury, teachers union trade blows as strike moves into second dayThe Secondary School Teachers Association (SSTA) is continuing its countrywide strike of all classes from the seventh through the twelfth grades. The ministries of finance and of education, however, have announced the start Thursday of intensive meetings with officials from the union, "who represent most of the educators in the state of Israel." The union will not strike Friday or at the start of next week in order not to disrupt Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies.

"The Education Ministry, not the Finance Ministry, should be the one to hold negotiations with the teachers," Education Minister Yuli Tamir said Wednesday. "In a proper state, a budget framework would be set and we would be conducting the discussions with the teachers. Instead, we and the unions are sent to the treasury, which is unwilling to specify the exact amount allotted to the wage agreements and is, on top of that, attempting to introduce its agenda into the talks. It doesn't matter what the topic of the meeting is, they always bring up teacher dismissals," Tamir said.

According to a Finance Ministry statement, "The Israeli government is committed to working together with the Israel Teachers Union (ITU) to lead a comprehensive and agreed-upon reform of the education system, in addition to preparing the ground for improving the status and working conditions of teachers and substantially increasing teachers' pay." The treasury also said that while it and the Education Ministry has already reached several important agreements with the ITU, "Unfortunately, and for irrelevant reasons, the SSTA leadership is harming the chances of its members to enjoy the benefits and changes that ITU members are enjoying."

Treasury officials Wednesday criticized SSTA Chairman Ran Erez for his "showboating media appearances and his threats to hamper the matriculation exams combined with absurd proposals to delay the military induction of 12th-graders" as "nothing but acrobatics designed for the union's own needs."

"The treasury's behavior is unsurprising," Erez said. "When they don't want to supply the goods, they shift to the 'divide and rule' method between us and the ITU. The treasury is trying to signal to other trade unions to wait until the Histadrut labor federation reaches an agreement over cost-of-living increments, but such an agreement will only perpetuate the existing gaps between the wages of teachers and those of other state employees."