The staff at the country’s 53 technology colleges, which train technicians and technical engineers, will go on strike Sunday in a bid to obtain greater funding.
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No classes will be held for the 22,000 students enrolled there, except for ORT technology colleges, which will function normally. But the National Union of Israeli Students has called on students at ORT schools not to show up for class in a gesture of solidarity.
A week ago, ORT colleges deferred labor sanctions after the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee promised them that Finance Minister Yair Lapid would intervene in the crisis.
The technology colleges’ demands include an immediate allocation of NIS 80 million for the current academic year, to be followed by negotiations on regular increases in state funding.
The Finance Ministry has conditioned additional funding on wide-ranging reforms over how funds to the colleges will be allocated. The ministry is requiring that the funding be performance-based – tied to results and the number of graduates who win professional certification.
The two sides have agreed on an approach to the reform plan, but the heads of the colleges demanded an additional NIS 140 million in state support over five years, while the Finance Ministry only agreed to NIS 90 million. This was accepted by the ORT technology colleges but not the country’s other technical colleges.
When the Finance Ministry failed to change its position, the heads of the technology colleges stepped up their fight. They staged a hunger strike from Wednesday to Friday in a protest tent in front of the Knesset and declared their intention to halt classes.
The colleges sent a letter to their students stating that government funding per student at institutions of higher learning was four times that for practical engineering students at the technology schools. “We are not willing to compromise on a reasonable minimum that will make possible a rational existence of the technology education system,” the colleges wrote.
The head of the national union of students, Uri Reshtik, has threatened to lead a student strike at all the country’s institutions of higher education, including the universities, if the current impasse is not solved by the end of the month.
The Finance Ministry did not comment on the current state of affairs, though last week the finance and economy ministries said they were preparing to implement their multiyear plan designed to make significant changes to the teaching of practical engineering.
“The plan was developed by senior professional staff at the ministries and carried out during a comprehensive consultation with the heads of the colleges and with many hours devoted to the subject in recent months,” the ministries said in a statement. “The ministries call on the college representatives who have not yet gotten on board the new plan to follow the lead of their colleagues, notably the ORT network, and adopt it immediately.”
Yocheved Pinhasi-Adiv, the chairwoman of the Forum of Technology Colleges that represents the schools, said the Knesset protest tent and the three-day hunger sstrike were not enough to send the complete message to the government.
“They have left us no choice but to halt classroom instruction,” she said. “It’s sad that the heads of the colleges are defending education and the future of the Israeli economy with their bodies.”