Israelis are going back to school: Teachers, gov't reach last-minute agreement

The new agreement will see new teachers paid NIS 9,000 * High schools will open as well on Thursday

 Teachers' Union head Yaffa Ben-David, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman hold a press conference (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Teachers' Union head Yaffa Ben-David, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman hold a press conference
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

It looks like the school year will start on schedule this week. The Teachers Union on Wednesday called off its planned strike after reaching an agreement with the Finance and Education ministries for a salary increase.

The agreement was signed with the Teachers Union, which represents elementary and middle schools. Later in the evening, an agreement was reached with the Teachers Organization, which represents high-school teachers, with the organization agreeing to hold classes on Thursday.

The agreement with the Teachers Union will see new teachers paid NIS 9,000 per month and experienced teachers receiving an additional minimum of NIS 1,100 monthly.

Both sides agreed that the terms of employment will not change before the end of 2026. In return, there will be no strikes at least until that date.

Under the agreement, teachers will receive a one-time NIS 10,000 payment after working three years. Principals will have their salary raised to NIS 19,000 per month. Bonuses of NIS 400 to NIS 1,000 will be offered for teachers with exemplary performance.

  Teachers' Union head Yaffa Ben-David, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman hold a press conference (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) Teachers' Union head Yaffa Ben-David, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman hold a press conference (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

According to the agreement, schools will be open on the day after holidays, Lag Ba’omer and Purim. Those vacation days will be moved to give teachers time off from Yom Kippur to Sukkot. Teachers will also have two vacation days each year that they can use whenever they choose.

Principals will be allowed to hire specialists from outside the education system.

A number of other bonuses will also be offered, including for kindergarten teachers who have special-needs children in their classes.

The agreement contains a plan to gradually require all teachers to work as full-time employees and to streamline firing procedures.

In addition to canceling the strike, the union agreed to withdraw the labor dispute from the court. A more detailed agreement will be released in the coming days, it said.

The government will need to decide on a budgetary source for financing the agreement.

“After a long struggle, we succeeded in bringing real good news to educators, protecting their work conditions and improving their salaries for the better of all the education system,” said Yaffa Ben David, secretary-general of the Teachers Union. “This is just the first step that we’re taking to treat this much-needed issue in the education system.”

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday evening said: “After many months of negotiations, we were able to bring about profound changes that have never been seen before in the education system in Israel.” The new agreement places emphasis on “excellence, investment and achievements” instead of seniority, he said.

During a press conference with Ben David and Liberman on Wednesday, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton said the agreement “gives a horizon and stability” to the education system.

“We are currently a few hours before the start of the school year, a very festive event, and I must say that I am very excited,” she said. “Also from the fact that we were able to bring about a regular opening of the current school year, which is very, very important... but most importantly, we come to this year with a historic, significant, groundbreaking wage agreement – one that really allows us stability not only for tomorrow morning but looking years ahead. Our children do not deserve to be in tension and uncertainty every year [asking], ‘Will the school year open, or will the school year not open?’”

Shasha-Biton acknowledged that the deal “is not perfect,” but she insisted that it is “historic” and “benefits the children of Israel.”

Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the agreement, congratulating Liberman, Shasha-Biton and Ben David “for the hard work and reaching a good agreement that will strengthen the status of the teacher in Israel and improve the level of education that the children of Israel receive.”

“Investing in a good education system with young and veteran teachers who are properly compensated is an investment in our children and in the future of the State of Israel,” he said.

Principals believe more work needs to be done

The Leaders organization, which represents school principals, welcomed the news but urged the government to also reach an agreement on rights and compensation for principals.

"The education system needs a fundamental change, and school principals are the engine for leading the entire system."

Leaders organization

“A salary agreement and salary increase are very important to preserve and add quality personnel to the system, but they will not solve the serious problems in the system that arise as a result of the overcrowding of classes, the burden of high-frequency reforms, lack of protection for principals and teachers, and especially the problem of the status of principals and their teams as the economic and security spearhead... of the State of Israel,” the organization said. “The education system needs a fundamental change, and school principals are the engine for leading the entire system.”

Poll finds Israelis unhappy with how education minister handled crisis

A poll by the Israel Democracy Institute published on Wednesday found that Israelis were generally dissatisfied with Shasha-Biton’s handling of the labor dispute.

Some 70% of respondents said they believed higher wages and better working conditions would bring better teachers to the education system. Some 65% of respondents said any agreement should be conditional on an agreement by the union not to open a labor dispute for at least the next five years.

Haredi politicians demand similar improvement for Haredi schools

Haredi politicians expressed outrage on Wednesday morning after discovering that salaries and working conditions of teachers in ultra-Orthodox schools would not be affected by the agreement.

“The finance minister has been holding the state back for many months while harming the preparation for the start of the school year and while threatening to issue injunctions against the teachers,” United Torah Judaism leader Moshe Gafni said. “In the end, he raised the salary for teachers as was required in the beginning and harmed Jewish symbols, such as by holding studies the day after holidays, including after Passover and Sukkot.”

Shas chairman Arye Deri lamented the “discrimination against the teachers who are not included” in the agreement, calling it “a continuation of the government’s harm to everything related to religion and the haredi sector.”

Nearly two and a half million Israeli students will be attending elementary, middle and high schools this year, including 177,000 new first-grade students and 136,000 new 12th-grade students. Another 150,000 advanced students will be studying this year as well.

Some 290,000 students will be attending special-education schools. A total of 22,050 kindergartens and 5,440 schools will be operating in the 2022-2023 school year, staffed by 218,000 teachers.