Official: Education Cuts Will Jeopardize Class Hours, Jobs

Cutting the Education Ministry's budget will mean a "catastrophe" including slashing classroom hours and the firing of thousands of teachers, a senior Education Ministry official told Haaretz over the weekend. The Finance Ministry is expected to cut the Education Ministry's budget by approximately NIS 750 million.

"All officials involved in education predict a catastrophe if a solution is not found. There is nowhere to cut from," the senior official warned.

Meetings with Finance Ministry officials who are preparing the draft budget will continue this week, however the crisis is so serious that the new ministry director general Dr. Shimshon Shoshani has said that if it is not solved, he will consider whether to remain in his post.

"Sa'ar doesn't intend to resign, but he is certainly responsible for the education system," another official said, refering to Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud).

The main problem Sa'ar is dealing with is the ministry's obligation to participate in financing the reform in the education system instituted by his predecessor, Yuli Tamir. Some NIS 550 million is expected to be cut from the funding of various elements of the reform, which is enshrined in a collective wage agreement with the Teachers Union. "We are having to fund 'individual hours' [teaching of small groups, a main element of the reform] through cutting classroom hours," the senior official explained.

The additional approximately NIS 200 million cut will come from funding for busing and growth of the school system due to population increase. Further reductions can come only from reducing classroom hours or cutting budgets to local authorities. In both cases, this will mean firing teachers or school staff employed by the local authority like janitors and secretaries, the senior official said, adding, "even the Finance Ministry can see the cut is impossible."