Sderot mayor threatens school strike over budgetary cuts

Strike to include all of city’s state-run schools and kindergartens, would only end when a solution is presented by the government.

August 29, 2011 06:34
3 minute read.
Sderot mayor threatens school strike over budgetary cuts

Sderot business 88 224. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Sderot Mayor David Buskila announced on Sunday that the city’s schools will go on strike beginning on Thursday, the first day of school, to protest what he says are ongoing state budget cuts that are leaving pupils without the means to receive a proper education.

Buskila said that the strike would include all of the city’s state-run schools and kindergartens and would only end when a solution is presented by the government.

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“Since I became mayor in 2008, the government has made a series of significant budget cuts in its assistance to Sderot, amounting to around 5 percent of all government assistance [to the city].”

Buskila said that the cuts have been ongoing since the end of the Cast Lead Gaza offensive in June 2009, citing in particular budget cuts that he said have seen after-school extracurricular programs for students fall from NIS 5 million to NIS 200,000 per year.

He also said that government- supplied supplementary funding for the city’s school system has fallen from NIS 6m. to NIS 2.5m. per year.

Buskila said that the strike has nothing to do with the security situation, saying that Sderot does not lack fortified areas to protect residents from rocket attacks, unlike towns like Ashkelon, which have held strikes in the past to protest the lack of protection for their schools.

For Buskila, the issue is about what he says is a situation wherein “we aren’t giving the kids all that they need to receive for their education. We need to think of the lives they will have after school and not only think about what they’ll do when they’re running for cover during a ‘Code Red’ rocket siren.”

But some parents, whose children are slated to return to school this week, are unhappy with the planned strike.

“Of course I am against the strike,” said Batya Keter, former leader of the Sderot parents committee. “They should use this tool [striking] only when it’s really necessary. The schools are protected, there is no other place safer than the schools. Why should our children be in danger and pay the price of one mayor or another?”

She said she is receiving dozens of calls from irate parents and that if the municipality wanted to strike “why didn’t he announce this decision during the summer so we can discuss it? The parents are under a lot of stress and they need to go to work, just because the mayor decides to hold a strike the students won’t have school? What about all of the money the mayor has received over the years for Sderot, what has he done with this money?”

She also said that there was a glut of employees in the municipality, and that there is enough money coming from the state to pay for the city’s school system.

“He is just trying to make headlines and get attention, that’s all,” Keter added.

A spokesperson for the Education Ministry said that the state has always pushed for governmental educational supplements to cities in the periphery like Sderot.

The spokesperson also criticized the decision to call for a strike as “outrageous” and irresponsible on the part of the mayor.

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