A Third of Teachers Refused Raises Tied to Education Reform

About a third - 22,380 - of elementary and junior-high school teachers refused a wage increase last year, which would have required them to join the Education Ministry's reform program. Teachers opposed to the reform say the number of refusers shows the widespread objection to the reform. The ministry, on the other hand, hopes these teachers will join the New Horizon reform program in the future.

Under the terms of the agreement that ended last year's high school teacher's strike, all teachers received a 4.5 percent wage increase, in exchange for one hour of working with small student-groups.

However, after a few weeks it transpired that the increase was an inseparable part of the New Horizon reform. "Teachers who agreed to teach a small group for one hour a week in return for the increase were automatically joining the reform program," said Aharon Zabeida, the Education Ministry's Haifa district director.

Consequently many teachers decided to forego the increase to demonstrate their objection to the reform.

Senior ministry officials have been saying that only a few teachers renounced the wage increase. But when Anat Schneider, an anti-reform activist, asked the ministry for the official figures, she found that thousands of teachers had opted for deducting the increase from their wages, to make thei objection clear.

The majority of teachers who refused the increase are members of the Teachers Federation. "The teachers were apparently given false information about the reform, and feared joining the extra hour's teaching plan. But every teacher who joined the reform last year chose to continue to stick with it this year as well," the Teachers Federation said.

An Education Ministry official commented that teachers who did not put in an hour of teaching a small group last year would not necessarily object to joining the reform program in the future.