Gideon Sa'ar, opening of school year 2011/2012 - Tomer Appelbaum - august 31 2011
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, center, at the ministry’s situation room ahead of the school year’s opening, August 31, 2011. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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More than 1.9 million children and 134,000 teachers will begin the school year today at 4,400 educational institutions throughout the country.

The opening of the school year was supposed to have marked the launch of a major reform of the high schools, with 50 schools implementing the reform in full and the rest having the option of beginning its first stage. But in either case, schools that wanted to participate had to produce the signatures of 75 percent of their faculty, and not all did so. This may cause a delay in implementing the program.

"We have waited 60 years for a reform of the high schools; nothing will happen if we wait a few more days," an Education Ministry spokesperson responded.

But one teacher from central Israel said many of her colleagues believe the extra work the reform will demand of them is not proportionate to the raises they will receive. Under the reform, teachers' salaries are to rise 51 percent in exchange for increasing their weekly in-school hours from 24 to 40.

The Association of Secondary School Teachers said that because it signed the agreement with the Education Ministry two weeks ago, while the teachers were on vacation, many did not know how to join and not all teachers were able to vote. It said it hoped the necessary preparations would be concluded in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the parents of 50 children from Eshhar, in the Misgav region, backed down from their threat to keep their children at home after having been told just this week that the pluralistic religious-secular school they had hoped the children would attend would not open due to the regional council's opposition.

The parents enrolled their children in other schools after the Education Ministry's northern district chief, Dr. Orna Simhon, told them they would be liable for prosecution if they did not.

"We were defeated," one parent said. "But we hope they will keep their promise to establish a pluralistic school next year. We worked quietly all these years, and the establishment took advantage of this."

MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi ) of the Knesset Education Committee told Haaretz he thought the regional council had made a mistake by "not giving expression to the parents' wishes."