Education Ministry Director-General Shlomit Amichai announced on Wednesday a series of staff cutbacks and reorganization measures aimed at reducing the ministry's budget by NIS 40m. In order to lift a freeze on hiring new personnel, which was imposed by the Treasury until the ministry became more efficient and in line with a government decision from two years ago, 250 personnel, largely from the main offices in Jerusalem, would either be voluntarily retiring or fired, Amichai said at a press conference in Tel Aviv. Of the 250 employees, 180 would be voluntarily retiring with "preferred conditions," she said. Amichai noted that some of the district offices would be slightly affected by the cutbacks, but the ministry had tried hard to leave the field offices as intact as possible. Some secretarial positions would also be reduced, and technical personnel would pick up the slack, she said. Amichai also announced three branch-reorganization initiatives. The branch for adult education would be disbanded and its responsibilities apportioned out to other branches of the ministry. According to a spokeswoman, a number of Ulpan teachers have already elected to take early retirement, essentially becoming the first step in the reorganization. The two branches dealing with youth and society and at-risk youth, respectively, would also be disbanded and their activities incorporated into other branches. For instance, classes for at-risk high school pupils would now be handled by the high school branch of the ministry, and responsibility for dealing with the drop-out phenomenon would pass to the administration for reducing gaps. Amichai also said the ministry would protest vigorously against the Economic Arrangements bill presented Wednesday, which suggested cutbacks in the rural education responsible for boarding schools, among other things. Also Wednesday, Education Minister Yuli Tamir and the Union of Local Authorities in Israel (ULIA) agreed to form a joint committee to search for solutions to a proposed NIS 85m. cut to local authorities' education budgets for the rest of 2008. Amichai would head the committee, which would base its recommendations on a differential cut.