High School to Begin Late as Teachers Strike for Drivers Ed

High schools and most junior high school classes will begin an hour late today, at 9 A.M., due to a one-hour strike by members of the Secondary School Teachers Association.

But since the Teachers Union, which represents elementary and some junior high school teachers, is not joining the strike, some junior high classes will begin on time.

The strike is to protest cuts in drivers education that the Secondary School Teachers Association says will affect some 750 teachers.

Normally, drivers education - which covers topics such as road rules and defensive driving - is offered in some 800 tenth-grade classes and 2,700 eleventh-grade classes. This year, however, no drivers education will be offered at all, because the National Road Safety Authority, which financed the classes in previous years, said that cuts to its budget precluded it from doing so this year. The union then appealed to the Education Ministry to fund the classes itself, but the ministry refused.

"The education minister is responsible for the entire education system, with all its various components," said union chairman Ran Erez. "The search for donors, private organizations and even other government ministries to finance the system often results in the one who pays the piper calling the tune. That is what happened when the Health Ministry cut funding for school nurses from its budget, when the police cut security for educational institutions, and now, when the Transportation Ministry is eliminating education to prevent accidents and [teach] teens to drive properly."

In response, the Education Ministry said: "In recent years, drivers education has been made possible by a joint program of the transportation and education ministries, under which the National Road Safety Authority gave the Education Ministry a budgetary commitment to pay for road safety instruction hours. To our sorrow, we were informed this year that due to cuts in the authority's budget, this budgetary commitment - which totals NIS 39.5 million - would not be given for this important project, which employs hundreds of professional teachers who were trained to teach the subject; thus thousands of students will lose the opportunity to prepare themselves for safe and responsible driving."