Hail to the Strikers

Israeli teachers earn much less than their colleagues in all other developed countries. They are at the bottom of the international salary scale, but the expectations of them are sky-high.

If you drink, don't drive, and if you strike, don't retreat. You can and should compromise, of course, but you should not quit the struggle with less than half your aims achieved; it is impossible to use the weapon of the strike every other day, for fear that it will become eroded and lose its deterrence capability.

The students failed in their struggle despite the fact that justice was on their side. Last time it ended with pizza, and this time it ended with noodles: the Shochat Committee on Reform in Higher Education will not be disbanded, tuition will not be lowered, and there will be no additional budget for higher education. The committee will carry on with its discussions as in the past without the clients, as though universities and colleges were not designed first and foremost for students.

It's easier for the government without them, just as it is easier for them to run the defense establishment without soldiers, the health system without patients, and the education system without teachers. The quality of this government's life would improve immeasurably if it were only released from the obligation to take care of millions of citizens who only keep coming with complaints and demands, shouting and sighing.

The Shochat Committee was and remains a forgone conclusion, and it's no wonder that its chair is so satisfied with the agreement between the education minister and student representatives. After all, Shochat already announced in an interview in TheMarker that he and his committee have decided to raise tuition, and the debate from now on will concern only the rate of the increase. And the technique of Finance Ministry personnel is familiar: they will propose that tuition be doubled, and that the good and beneficent chair will propose a compromise, and in the end, tuition will be almost doubled. While the students have agreed de facto to waive the conclusions of the Winograd Committee (which recommended a tuition reduction), and despite the fact that tuition will be frozen next year, they will nevertheless continue to pay more than most of their colleagues in Europe, and will pay through the nose in the future.

It is hard to come launch complaints against the students over their failure in the negotiations. After all, they are still students and have a lot to learn. We have to hope that the teachers will teach them. The fact is that for lack of choice, the teachers went on strike this week and closed the high schools because that is the only language the local government understands. Who will talk seriously to the teachers if the sword of the strike doesn't threaten from time to time; who will talk seriously to the Histadrut labor federation if it does not call a strike against the country and demand that the stolen wages of employees of 40 local councils, after months and years of "today is Shabbat" and "today is Pesah", come tomorrow?

The official investment in education is a matter of debate: Some claim there is over-investment compared to well-run countries, while others claim there is under-investment. One statistic is not subject to debate: Israeli teachers earn much less than their colleagues in all other developed countries. They are at the bottom of the international salary scale, but the expectations of them are sky-high. All the problems of the nation are loaded on the bent backs and narrow shoulders of teachers, with a righteous and baseless wish to solve them in the context of the schools.

The upcoming strikes will make things difficult for many citizens and disrupt their daily schedule. A strike in the education system is far more distressing and disturbing, and public opinion usually joins the well planned incitement by the treasury against the strikers. Parents must understand that the strike is the last weapon in the hands of the teachers, and that they use it sparingly and due to lack of choice. Mom and dad must not be impatient if they are really concerned about their children and their children's future, and less concerned about themselves and their momentary convenience.

When the government realizes that public opinion is in favor of the justified strikers rather than against them, in favor of the abandoned teachers, in favor of the forgotten local council employees, the strikes will be shorter, will cause less suffering, and will achieve half of their aims.

Hail to the strikers.