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The Labor Court forbade the Secondary School Teachers Association from taking "any organizational steps" to protest the implementation of the Education Ministry's New Horizon reforms in the state middle schools.

A panel of judges, headed by Labor Court President Steve Adler, agreed to the ministry's request to deny the union the option of enacting a work stoppage that would disrupt the start of the school year on September 1.

Nonetheless, the court did determine in its ruling that members of the union are permitted to oppose the reform, and that they had the right to decide whether to adopt it for their schools.

In the coming weeks, the extent of the teachers' opposition will be better gauged. If, as the SSTA is convinced, that resistance to the plan is widespread among its membership, the education minister will find it difficult to expand the program to more schools.

New Horizon, which former education minister Yuli Tamir introduced as a reform, has been adopted by 72 percent of all state-run elementary schools. The program, enacted three years ago, requires teachers to teach more in exchange for a 26-percent bump in salaries. During the past school year, the reform encompassed 40,000 teachers in 1,700 schools.

In yesterday's ruling, the court determined that SSTA members are entitled to refrain from instituting the reform "for personal reasons."

A statement by the Education Ministry praised the court's ruling while calling on the SSTA to abide by the decision.

Sigal Pail, an attorney for the SSTA, said: "The ruling defends teachers who do not wish to work under the conditions spelled out in the reform. Unfortunately, the Education Ministry has thus far failed to acknowledge this basic right."