Teachers Take Finance, Education Ministries to Court Over Reforms

The Secondary Schools Teachers Association appealed to the Tel Aviv District Labor Court to stop the education and finance ministries from expanding the scope of the New Horizon educational reform. The reform is now set to include junior high school, taught by members of the union.

According to lawyer Sigal Pail, who represents the teachers, the Education Ministry is "attempting to intimidate" teachers, whose collective contracts do not include any references to the reform. They are reportedly to be told to join the movement or be transfered or removed from their posts. Pail's claim is supported in the appeal by a number of teachers' testimonies.

The appeal also states the Education Ministry committed last year to a collective agreement saying that negotiations with the teachers' union will continue, and no teachers will be forced to join a reform not confirmed by their union.

"For the first time in the history of the state, the education ministry is behaving like a bully, trying to force the members of one union to submit themselves to the decisions of another union, in the membership of which they have no interest whatsoever," Pail said.

New Horizon, already underway in some 800 schools, was promoted by Education Minister Yuli Tamir, along with the Teachers' Federation. The reform includes a 26-percent pay raise in exchange for additional teaching hours, and substantial changes to the teachers salary system. However, critics of the reform say that the pay raise is disporprtionate to the amount of extra hours, effectively having teachers work more for less.

They also draw attention to the extensive powers granted to school principles under the move, making it easier for them to fire teachers, and to the reduced ability for teachers to go on strike.

The Education Ministry said in a statement that its legal department had not yet received the appeal.