More Teachers Working as Independent Contractors With No Rights or Benefits

Almost half of those employed as contractors work for local authorities; the number has been steadily increasing over the years.

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A teacher asks a question during a class at the Yeshiva high school Chachme Lev in Jerusalem. March 15, 2016.
Throughout the education system, the number of contracted teachers is on the rise.Credit: AP

Some 10,000 teachers in elementary schools and junior high schools are employed as contract workers, lacking most of the rights and benefits provided for those teachers who work for the Education Ministry. The Education Ministry presented the results of its of its first-ever study of the issue to the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee yesterday.

Almost half these teachers are employed as independent contractors by local and regional authorities. The rest are employed by various groups such as parents’ organizations, educational nonprofits and other bodies such as the Rashi Foundation, Tel Aviv municipality’s nonprofit for educational projects, the Israel Association of Community Centers and other educational networks.

The ministry’s mapping of the employment of contract teachers, which Haaretz has obtained, along with new data collected by the Central Bureau of Statistics, is based on figures reported by 2,476 school principals.

It seems the ministry’s data is not complete and missing thousands of teachers of core subjects such as math and English. The greatest number of contract teachers, 1,214, teach art; about 1,100 teach language enrichment; 681 teach science; 624 teach Judaism; 612 teach music; 819 teach math and 483 teach sport. The survey was conducted from November 2015 through April 2016.

The Education Ministry promised to publish the data over a year ago, but did not do so. Now it is being released, partly as a result of pressure from social activists, along with a number of Knesset members including Itzik Shmuli and Yossi Yonah, both from the Zionist Union.

The Education Ministry says it will now conduct such a survey every school year, and this year’s mapping will be conducted over the next few months.

In 2012, the ministry put together a report so it could estimate the number of teachers employed as independent contractors throughout the entire educational system, including high schools. At the time, this number was estimated at about 13,000.

A report from the State Comptroller’s Office in 2015 said the ministry underestimated these numbers by some 4,000 contract teachers, who were employed by parents or by companies run by local authorities.

The Knesset Research and Information Center estimated at the end of 2011 that some 7,000 contract teachers were employed by the education system, while five years earlier the number of such teachers was in the low hundreds.

The one thing that is clear from all these reports is that the number of teachers employed as contractors has been steadily increasing over the years. Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s predecessors, Shay Piron and Gideon Sa’ar, promised to examine the issue in depth and to reduce the use of such contractors in schools, and Piron even said he would eliminate the phenomenon completely.

Lily Ben-Ami of the Coalition for Direct Employment in Education said: “The present mapping is only partial and does not include the majority of contract teachers employed in high schools by nonprofits and subsidiaries of the local governments.”

But after a decade of struggle, Ben-Ami said they want to thank Education Ministry Director General Michal Cohen and Bennett for agreeing to conduct the survey, and expect further cooperation, as promised, in deciding on the next steps to increase direct employment.

Education Committee Chairman MK Yakov Margi (Shas) said the cabinet has made two decisions concerning contract teachers who do exactly the same work as those employed by the ministry – and these decisions are being implemented very slowly. Margi said too many teachers are being employed as contractors and everything possible must be done to have them become government employees.

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