Leaders of Israel's student organizations are declining to state a preference between Labor MK Yuli Tamir and Kadima MK Uriel Reichman for the Education portfolio.
Itai Shonshine, chair of the National Student Association, told The Jerusalem Post that the students' attitude towards the future education minister would depend on his or her support for the students' demands. "I will put it very simply. We will support whoever meets the student agenda," Shonshine said.
This agenda, he said, involved a reduction of tuition and a more general reform in higher education as well as an overhaul of the country's education system as a whole.
More specifically, Shonshine spoke of the implementation of the decision reached by the Winograd Committee, which determined in 2001 that university tuition should gradually be reduced by 50 percent. Shoneshine also mentioned student demands for larger research and development budgets, a serious emphasis on youth education and a raise in the number of high school students eligible to take the matriculation exams.
Speaking off the record, some teacher representatives expressed their reservations concerning what they defined as the "capitalist" outlook of Reichman, the former president of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, and voiced their concerns that it would influence the education system in an adverse manner. Others expressed their concerns about the similarity between Reichman's promises and those of Shlomo Dovrat, chair of the Dovrat Committee.
In contrast, the chair of one local parents' association in a suburb of Tel Aviv told the Post that he was concerned that "if Labor receives the Education portfolio, there will be no reform, because the teachers' unions are the tragedy of the education systems and Labor is responsible for the stagnation they have caused."
According to a survey commissioned by the Sderot Conference for Society and Sapir College and conducted by the Geocartographia Institute several weeks prior to the elections, the majority of the Israeli public chose Labor MK Yuli Tamir as the best candidate to head the Israeli education system. Former education minister Limor Livnat came in second, while Kadima's candidate Uriel Reichman came in fourth. Shas chairman Eli Yishai came in third.
"I would be in favor of Yuli Tamir because of everything she has done thus far in the Knesset's Education Committee," said Eitan Winerich, who is among the directors of the country's National Parents Association. "She is a worthy candidate who, for the most part, supports things that are important for parents, such as undertaking an education reform in partnership with the teachers."
Winerich emphasized that he had nothing against Reichman. "He could very well be an excellent person; we simply don't know him," he said. "This is a political issue that we are not invoalved in. No matter who is chosen, however, what is important is that he or she does the right thing."