Teachers protesting, Nir Keidar, 2007
Teachers protestign in Herzliya during a 2007 strike. The sign says, "Without education, there is no future." Photo by Nir Keidar
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More than half of Israel's teachers earn less than the average wage, according to the Finance Ministry's 2009 Wage Report. In other words, 54% of teachers gross less than NIS 7,949 a month.

The annual report on public-sector salaries also reveals that 12,500 teachers had to receive supplements to their income to reach the country's minimum wage. In fact, the field of education was found to have the greatest proportion of employees paid less than the average wage.

For the sake of comparison, while 54% of teachers earn less than the average wage, in the Prison Service and Israel Defense Forces the figure stands at 38%. At the Defense Ministry, it's 6.6%.

Teacher pay in Israel is also low by international standards. The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, which admitted Israel to its ranks this May, reports that in 2008, Israeli elementary school teachers with 15 years' experience receive $19,868 a year, compared with the $39,426 a year average for members of the OECD.

Israel's middle-school and high-school teachers average $22,410 a year, compared with the $41,927 average earned by middle-school teachers around the world and $45,850 for high-school teachers.

Meirav, who began teaching elementary school in central Israel a year ago, grosses NIS 5,500 a month.

"It isn't good enough to discuss teachers' standing and how important the profession is," she says - the proof of the pudding is in the pay. "My salary, given the difficulties in the classroom and the extra working hours I put in after the school day, is far from decent and honorable."

The ministry also published a table yesterday showing the wage differences for teachers who work under the "New Horizon" reform, which among other things has teachers working longer hours for more pay. Teachers in the program grossed an average of NIS 10,165 a month last year, compared with NIS 8,509 for teachers not in the plan.

Irgun Hamorim, a teachers organization, opposes the "New Horizon" reform and claims that, if anything, it diminishes the value per hour of teaching.

It also seems that in 2009, the long-standing wage discrepancy between high-school teachers (who are usually employed by the local authority, not the state as such ) and teachers who do work for the state disappeared. High-school teachers grossed NIS 9,544 a month last year, while state teachers grossed an average of NIS 9,599.

The average wage for teachers employed by the ORT and Amal private schools is lower: NIS 8,826 a month.