Israeli Court Rules in Favor of Teachers' Union to Not Extend School Year Due to Coronavirus

Negotiations with the education and finance ministries failed at the last minute, with students going to school not knowing if it's their last day

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An empty classroom in a closed primary school in Ramat Gan, Israel, March 15, 2020.
An empty classroom in a closed primary school in Ramat Gan, Israel, March 15, 2020. Credit: Oded Balilty / AP

Israel’s National Labor Court ruled that the school year for 10th grade has ended, rejecting an appeal by the Education and Finance Ministries to add nine teaching days due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After the ruling, the Israeli Teachers Union announced that the school year has also ended for grades 7-9, and will end for elementary schools and pre-schools on June 30, as was originally scheduled before schools were shut due to the pandemic.

Following the ruling, incoming Education Minister Yoav Galant announced that the education system would be offering subsidized summer school from July 1 through August 6, which is three weeks longer than usual. Preschoolers and elementary schoolers in grades 1 through 4 are eligible to enroll, and the first two weeks will be fully funded by the state. Teachers can work at the summer schools and will receive additional pay if they do, stated Galant.

Chairman of the Israeli Secondary School Teachers Association, Ran Erez, in the National Labor Court in Jerusalem, June 18, 2020. Credit: אמיל סלמן

The ruling was handed down after negotiations between the ministries and the Secondary School Teachers Association failed. Earlier, the chairman of the Israeli Secondary School Teachers Association, Ran Erez, met with the Education Ministry’s Director General Shmuel Abuav and with deputy director of wages at the Finance Ministry, Moshe Bachar, to discuss the union’s refusal to add nine school days. The Teachers Association had said it was willing to add three school days at the teachers’ expense, but said the government representatives wouldn’t budge.

The Finance Ministry had sought to push teachers to extend the school year without giving them additional pay.
The significance of the ruling is that if 10th grade teachers would have had to continue teaching, then teachers from the Israeli Teachers Union – which represents elementary, middle and pre-school teachers – would have also had to teach another nine days.

The reason is that when secretary general of the union, Yaffa Ben David, agreed that teachers would work an extra nine days, it was conditioned on 10th grade teachers also teaching extra days.
Erez asserted that 10th grade teachers don’t need to add days because in contrast to elementary school teachers and kindergarten teachers, high school teachers didn’t stop long distance teaching throughout the period that schools were shut down.

Treasury officials believe that every day of classes for kindergarten and primary school children is worth about 250 million shekels ($73 million) to the country.

Students in 10th grade and middle schools came to class on Friday without knowing whether or not it would be their last of the school year. High schools expected very low attendance if they would have continued teaching because in any event attendance would have been optional and many of the students already received their final report cards. Education Ministry officials admitted to Haaretz that there was no real importance in having middle- and high-schoolers stay in school longer for either the students themselves or the economy.

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