Dovrat report spurs salary spat
A disagreement between the Finance Ministry and the chairman of the National Task Force on Education Reform, Shlomo Dovrat, regarding proposals for teachers' salaries surfaced yesterday during the festive presentation of the commission's final report to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Work on the report began in September 2003 and involved 18 commission members and another 100 or so professionals. An interim report was issued last May. Education Minister Limor Livnat termed the report's presentation "a historic turning point."
According to the recommended wage tables, a beginning teacher with a bachelor's degree who has passed the requisite licensing exam will receive NIS 5,500 per month, and the average teacher's salary will reach about NIS 9,400. However, at the press conference yesterday, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the wage tables in the report are too high and that it seems to him the Dovrat Commission "got a bit carried away." Netanyahu said the final amounts would be hashed out in negotiations set to begin in the coming weeks between the heads of the teachers' unions and the treasury's wages director, Yuval Rachlevsky.
According to the commission's recommendations, salaries will increase according to a teacher's seniority, academic degree and rank. For example, a teacher at level No. 5 (out of eight), with a master's degree, who has worked for 13 years in the school system, will receive about NIS 9,400. The monthly salary cap will be around NIS 13,000.
The Finance Ministry believes the wage tables are unrealistic and would raise teachers' salaries by dozens of percentage points, which could spur demands for similar increases in other degree-holding civil service sectors such as among social workers and nurses. The treasury is prepared to go only as high as NIS 4,500 for teachers' starting salaries.
The treasury will also insist on teachers' employment being transfered to the auspices of regional education administrations - a move that local authorities vehemently oppose. "We will insist that the clauses related to employment flexibility and responsibility will be implemented," treasury budgets director Kobi Haber said yesterday. "We want teachers to be assessed, to receive a bonus if they're good and to go home if they're not."
These controversies aside, the speakers at yesterday's press conference vowed support for implementing education reform. Sharon said that concern for education is no less important than concern for security and growth, and added that he intends to guarantee the implementation of the reforms during the five-year period alloted.
Netanyahu spoke about education being integral to Israel's national strength. He said the treasury will allocate NIS 11 billion for implementing the reform and that the across-the-board cuts to government ministries this year would skip the Education Ministry, even at other ministries' expense.
Shlomo Dovrat said the intention is to introduce a long school day next year at half of the schools.
The cabinet meeting at which the report is to be approved was postponed until tomorrow.
The heads of the teachers' unions, Yossi Wasserman and Ran Erez, refused to come to a meeting yesterday with Education Minister Limor Livnat, to receive the report in person. They said that the commission's recommendations for as many as 14,000 layoffs of teachers differ from the intentions of the treasury, which wants to fire a much larger number. Wasserman and Erez sent a letter to Sharon yesterday, requesting to meet with him to discuss the reform.