The Bottom Line / See Me After Class

Education Minister Limor Livnat has found herself on the firing line.

Livnat 1. Education Minister Limor Livnat has found herself on the firing line. The teachers unions are using the fact that she did not report receiving NIS 175 million from the treasury to attack her and to make her weaker in the public's eyes, when their ultimate aim is to thwart the Dovrat Report. Really, the teachers are defending themselves, their power and their control of the education system. They want to see a continuation of the situation where it is impossible to move a teacher or fire one without their say so. They want to remain the true managers of the education system.

The Dovrat Report was not about how many hours a teacher teaches, or what their salaries should be. It was principally about changing the management of schools. The report recommends boosting the status of school principals, so that they - and not the teachers unions - will determine which teachers they want on the staff, who should get paid more and who less, and who should be promoted. And, up against this normal management, the teachers are up in arms.

Livnat 2. Several English teachers said this week that the modular tests in the past two years have become easier for the pupils, and the pass rate has gone up as a result, without a commensurate rise in knowledge. This criticism fits well with recent research by the Central Bureau of Statistics on the reasons for the increase in matriculation pass rates. The CBS writes: "The introduction of a second exam sitting in English and math in 2001 brought an increase in the matriculation pass rate from 51 percent of Grade 12 pupils in 2000 to 56 percent in 2003." The ruse allows any pupil to resit the exam at a later stage, risk free, as only the higher marks will be taken into account.

Now it is official. Livnat has pushed up the matriculation rates without raising education levels. It was just a small and shameful sham.

Underground train. The Tel Aviv regional planning committee decided this week that the light rail that will run through the center of Tel Aviv will go ... underground. Well what a surprise! Who would have thought it! The committee decided that the second Green route will be a subway the length of Ibn Gvirol Street.

The treasury, though, was furious and slammed the decision as irresponsible, saying it will push the cost of the project up by several hundred million dollars, thereby making it unfeasible. Really?

The treasury has always had a short-term vision. Their experts have churned out "economic valuations" over the years, proving there was no justification for new highways, or intersections, or bridges - because the ultimate objective of the budgets division is to ensure that the budget deficit doesn't boil over. The rest is of no importance.

The budgets division was a long-standing opponent of the Ayalon freeway, so the lanes ended up too narrow, and the design is full of errors, with traffic light intersections instead of flyovers, as there are everywhere else in the world.

Tel Aviv's train ought to run underground, as it does in every other metropolis from Amman to Beijing. A train running at road level the length of Ibn Gvirol would take up space for vehicular traffic, disturb pedestrians, endanger passersby and, in general, jeopardize the urban development of the city.

The funniest joke is when they say there's no money. The government has recently approved an extra NIS 1 billion for the disengagement from Gush Katif, a few hundred million more for buying the most state-of-the-art helicopters in the world, and millions more on 20 special planes for the air force officers. So there is money. The question is where the priorities lie.