Education Contracted Out

A real reform in the education system -one that will pass the administrative scepter to school principals.

Education Minister Yuli Tamir didn't wait a day. The moment the Haaretz reporter contacted her, she realized which way the wind was blowing, and sent a warning to the Education Administration in Jerusalem, asking for figures on the employment of teachers through the Rene Cassin Association.

Yuli Tamir is aiming her arrows at the Education Administration, which is located at the Jerusalem municipality, but she could have found out all the details at the Senior Department for Personnel and Teaching at her own ministry. This department has known for years about the employment of teachers through the association, and, like the Education Administration, is in favor of it.

The Haaretz report published this week revealed that more than 1,000 teachers throughout the country are employed by intermediary bodies, like parents' associations, education associations and manpower companies. These teachers enjoy higher salaries per teaching hour, but do not have tenure. The phenomenon initially emerged as a way to employ external teachers in the "additional studies programs," which give students enrichment lessons in a variety of areas, but in recent years, it has expanded to the employment of teachers who teach regular subjects for the matriculation exams like history, literature, mathematics, bible and civics.

The education minister has said that she is against employing teachers without tenure, and the ministry's director general, Shmuel Abuav, has added that all teachers should be employed by the state. Tamir and Abuav must realize that the parents who are funding the employment of additional teachers out of their own pockets are doing so because they have no alterative. They see that the education system has gone bankrupt and that its achievements are declining from year to year, and therefore, are prepared to pay so that their children will have a good and diligent teacher, a teacher who is not burned out - something that the establishment education system does not provide.

Clearly, there are good and devoted teachers within the education system. Most of them are diligent teachers, who work day and night to educate and instill knowledge. But there is a considerable minority that makes the system a laughingstock, and the Education Ministry is not dealing with it.

The way the situation looks today, the Education Ministry and school principals are not administering the education system. The teachers' organizations are preventing them from doing so. Only recently, these organizations succeeded in torpedoing the Dovrat reform, and when from time to time the need arises to fire unsuitable teachers - those who are late for class, do not come to the school, and do not teach the material -the teachers' unions threaten to strike. And then, at the culmination of the process, it is not the terrible teachers who leave the system, but rather industrious teachers who want to take early retirement. And in most cases, they are the best teachers who have grown tired of carrying the system on their backs.

The teachers' organizations do not enable the firing of a teacher against his or her will, even though unsuitable people are hired in every profession. It is also clear that in some cases, absolute tenure leads to scorn for the work. After serving as education minister, Professor Amnon Rubinstein said that following endless battles throughout his term, he was able to fire only one teacher out of 120,000. The teachers' organizations also prevent the possibility of giving differential pay in the system. They make it impossible for a school principal not to promote a bad teacher who does not take his or her work seriously.

A few months ago, the Histadrut Labor Federation chairman, Ofer Eini, surprised everyone when he said that, "The Histadrut erred when it did not agree that employers in the public sector should have administrative flexibility, which would be expressed in the ability to fire workers." Eini explained that as a result of this lack of flexibility, "Employers have bypassed the Histadrut, and have taken in workers outside collective agreements." And indeed, this is precisely what is happening in large parts of the public sector. Public employers are trying to circumvent the obstacle of absolute tenure because they want to change, move and progress - and they can't.

This does not mean that it is necessary to totally abolish the institution of tenure, however, it's necessary to build a system that will enable school principals to dismiss teachers who are not good and replace them with more suitable educators. This is because when you come right down to it, those who suffer most from the phenomenon of absolute tenure are the good and industrious teachers who do not receive proper compensation for their investment.

In every collective agreement that is signed, all 120,000 teachers receive a similar raise, which has to do with seniority and rank and is not connected to personal contribution.

Therefore, Tamir should not attack the Rene Cassin Association, but should carry out a real reform in the education system - one that will pass the administrative scepter to school principals so that they will be able to choose the best teaching staff and reward it accordingly. When this happens, there will be no need for education associations and manpower companies to employ teachers.