Israeli Government, High School Teachers, Clash Over Added Teaching Days

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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

The Education Ministry and the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel is expected to ask the National Labor Court to order high school teachers to lengthen the school year until the end of June to make up for the school closures due to the coronavirus.

The school year is scheduled to end this Friday, June 19, but the Education Ministry wants to extend it by nine days.

The main disagreement between the government and the teachers, represented by the Secondary School Teachers Association, involves the 10th grade. The sides verbally agreed that teachers will continue to prepare 11th- and 12th-graders for their matriculation exams for as long as it takes, but the elementary school teachers’ union has conditioned lengthening the school year on 10th-graders being included in the arrangement.

The chairman of the Secondary School Teachers Association, Ran Erez, said in a letter to high school teachers this week that they would not add days onto the school year because even though the schools were closed, they had continued teaching online, and 10th-graders have completed all the required material.

Yaffa Ben-David, head of the union representing kindergarten and elementary school teachers as well as some junior high school teachers, signed an agreement with the Finance Ministry in early April that teachers of those grades would teach another nine days in July to replace the days when distance learning was not yet in place at the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown. A clause in the agreement states that the teachers will only teach the extra days if 10th-grade teachers, who are also members of union, do so.

Pupils are shown how to maintain social distancing, upon return to school after the COVID-19 lockdown, at Hashalom elementary in Mevaseret Zion, in the suburbs of Jerusalem, May 3, 2020.Credit: AFP

Finance Ministry representatives accepted Ben-David’s conditions because they believed that they would be able to reach a similar arrangement with high school teachers, but the Secondary School Teachers Association did not negotiate with the ministry.

Now Ben-David is insisting that 10th-grade teachers clause be applied on the basis of the principle of equality. In a letter Ben-David sent to teachers on Thursday she wrote: “There won’t be a situation in which you will work more than other teachers who are not preparing students for matriculation.”

Erez wrote in a letter to high school teachers on Wednesday: “The doctors all got applause, and rightly so. The teachers were congratulated at the beginning and as they continued to work, and now they are kicked and crushed. And why? Why such great ingratitude? Perhaps because the teaching profession is mainly a female profession and Israeli society is chauvinistic and belligerent? It seems so.”

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