Teachers Claim Ministry Won't Let Them Opt Out of Reform

School faculties that have told the Education Ministry they are refusing to join its reform next year say they have received no official response, and some even have been told by their principals and supervisors that the reform is being adopted despite their opposition.

The Education Ministry says the new employment terms, dubbed New Horizon, will not be forced on schools where most of the teachers oppose it, but stated, "The teachers can decide only after familiarizing themselves with the details of the reform."

The Education Ministry and the Teachers' Union said about 15 refusal letters have been received so far, many of which arrived in the past week. Next school year, about 450 schools are expected to join the reform.

The wording of the refusal letters is almost uniform: "In accordance with the promise of Education Minister Yuli Tamir, given in Be'er Sheva on June 17 and in the Knesset plenum on June 25, a school where most of the teachers refuse to join the New Horizon agreement will not adopt the agreement. In that case, we, the majority of the teachers at the school, are opposed to joining the agreement."

Most of the letters were sent to the school principal, the district Education Ministry officials (the supervisor, the district director and the manpower director), Tamir and Teachers Union director general Yossi Wasserman.

"Although we sent refusal letters three weeks ago, the last one at the end of June, we are yet to receive a response," said a teacher from the Mordei Ha'getaot school in Ramat Gan, who was afraid to give her name. "This is not merely a bureaucratic issue, which may be annoying but has no practical consequences: As far as we know from the principal, we are supposed to adopt the reform next year, even though we have stated we will be waiving that pleasure."

Teachers at other schools are saying similar things. "The lack of response to the letters is systematic. We fear they're planning to ignore our opposition. The principal, for example, didn't want to accept the refusal letter, claiming she doesn't need our consent because a collective agreement has been signed, and the matter does not depend on the teachers' wishes," says a teacher from Ramat Hasharon's Amirim school.

In spite of the lack of any official Education Ministry response, PR teams are being sent to some of the schools in order to try to convince the teachers to join the reform.

Last week a former Education Ministry accountant general, Moti Meroz, visited several schools in Eilat that had expressed opposition to the reform. The Education Ministry claims that most of the city's educational institutions changed their minds as a result.

The ministry also says there is a waiting list of 100 schools that want to join the reform next year. The Teachers Union adds that not a single teacher who worked under the new conditions this year asked to back out, even though they were given the opportunity.

However, many teachers say there has been a campaign to pressure them to adopt the reform.

The Education Ministry responded to the teachers' claims, "There is an unequivocal promise that a school will not be required to join the reform if most of its teachers are opposed." However, the ministry added, "Before deciding, the teachers must familiarize themselves with the organizational and pedagogical details of the agreement."

It added, "We will handle any case that is brought to our attention. If even after the process is presented to the teachers, they continue to refuse, the school will not adopt the reform."