Teacher Talks Go on Amid Basic Agreements

Education and Finance ministry officials will meet representatives of the striking Secondary school teachers tomorrow, in an attempt to end the 39-day long strike.

Representatives of the Education Ministry and Secondary School Teachers Association met yesterday to negotiate over the number of pupils per classroom, and restoring some of the classroom hours that had been previously slashed from the teachers' curriculum.

Both sides have agreed that the teachers would receive an 8.5 percent wage raise. The SSTA is demanding the raise in one payment, while the treasury wants to pay it in two installments.

SSTA chairman Ran Erez said the 8.5 percent raise will pay for two additional hours' work - one with pupils who need extra tutoring, and another devoted to pedagogical meetings. The Education Ministry, however, insists that one of the additional hours is a classroom hour.

"The Teachers Federation's members have agreed to teach one more hour in the classroom, and the SSTA will have to accept it as well," a senior ministry official said.

Other bones of contention include the number of students per classroom. While the SSTA wants to reduce the number to 30 per class, the Education and Finance ministries insist on 35. The SSTA is convinced that reducing the number of pupils per classroom will require no more than NIS 1.2 to NIS 1.5 billion, spread over five to six years, while the Education and Finance ministries say the expense will exceed NIS 3 billion and NIS 6 billion respectively.

The teachers are demanding that the government restore 110,000 classroom hours it had cut from their curriculum. Education Ministry figures show that 39,000 hours had been cut from junior high schools and 79,000 from secondary schools.

The ministry said it would add 20,000 classroom hours in the next school year, and has undertaken to draft a multi-year plan to restore the hours to the curriculum. The teachers say this is not enough.

Hebrew U. students call for end to strike

Tamara Traubmann adds: Students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem demonstrated on campus yesterday, calling for an end to the five-week-old strike by senior faculty, and decrying the dwindling resources for higher education. Fellow-students at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology are also weighing stronger protest measures, including blocking the intersection at the main campus entrance. Junior faculty at some universities are considering going on strike once the professors' strike is over. They say the professors' organizations rejected their bid to join forces, and a simultaneous strike would only give an impetus to the professors' strike, without the latter showing the same support. Yesterday, representatives of the coordinating committee of senior faculty unions met with cabinet secretary Oved Yehezkel to present their position.