Student Council Calls for Nationwide Student Strike in Schools Wed.

The students plan to strike, hold demonstration in effort to drastically increase the Education Ministry's budget.

The National Student and Youth Council is calling for a nationwide strike in schools this coming Wednesday, starting from 12 in the afternoon, in an effort to drastically increase the Education Ministry's budget.

The planned strike would be valid for 7th-12th grades. At two in the afternoon the students plan to hold a demonstration across from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office in Jerusalem.

"Even though there was a slight addition to the budget this year, before the last elections a bigger investment [into the Education Ministry's budget] was promised," said Student Council Chairman Hagai Oren, from Haifa.

"We are demanding the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, fulfill his promises that he scattered over his campaign last election," said Oren.

He maintains that the strike is not intended to lead to negotiations, but to bring the difficult situation in the education system to the government's attention.

The Education Ministry funds and provides organizational support for the National Student and Youth Council.

"We notified the minister, Yuli Tamir, and the director-general, Shmuel Abuav, on our intentions to strike, but we didn't ask permission from anyone," says Oren.

Another council member said, "Our interests should be identical. We assume that Tamir and Abuav will support us, and won't trip us up."

The Education Ministry said in response that Minister Yuli Tamir opposes the strike, but in a meeting with the council, she proposed methods for a joint effort to increase the ministry's budget.

The Knesset Education Committee will hold an extra hearing on the education budget Monday, along with Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson.

The Education Ministry published statistics ahead of Monday's meeting, maintaining that Israel needs to increase the education budget by more than 12 percent. During the years 1995-2003, the cost of a student in Israel increased only by 2 percent, as opposed to 27 percent in Europe.

"The budget cuts in the past five years put Israel in an inferior standing. If it continues in this direction, we will lose our economic and human competitive abilities," said Tamir.