Students to take exams despite strikes

15 largest cities to hold 2-hour strike; elsewhere, high school students to stay home all day.

yuval steinitz 248 88 (photo credit: Knesset Channel [file])
yuval steinitz 248 88
(photo credit: Knesset Channel [file])
As the cabinet convened Tuesday afternoon for a special session to discuss the amended budget proposal, the Union of Local Authorities in Israel (ULAI) moved a school strike planned for two hours Wednesday morning up a notch, announcing it would take place over the entire day. After the reported intervention of Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, the ULAI agreed to allow schools to hold matriculation exams scheduled for Wednesday, but little else, saying it would not allow security guards or administrators to work. Breaking rank, the municipalities of Israel's 15 largest cities and towns (except Ramat Gan) announced that their schools would strike only between 8 and 10 a.m. Jerusalem and several other cities said school would be held as usual. ULAI Chairman Shlomo Bohbot had initially urged teachers to stage a walkout between those hours during an emergency session of the Knesset Education Committee on Monday, when Treasury plans to cut the Education Ministry's budget by NIS 750 million a year were discussed. At that meeting, Sa'ar attacked the proposed cuts, saying that at "times like these Israel should be investing in education." He added that cuts would mean teachers would inevitably be fired. A member of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, Sa'ar did not directly criticize the prime minister, saying Netanyahu "wants to help on education." Speaking at an education conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Sa'ar said that if education were a top priority, "it would be expressed in the budget. We have to learn from other advanced countries in the world that dafka invest in their education systems during financial crises. [Our education system is] deteriorating, and the country must take responsibility." Also on Tuesday, students and professors at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem staged a two-hour strike at midday to protest the proposed cuts to the education budget as well as plans to raise tuition fees. Colleges also joined in the brief protest strike. Open University Staff have been on strike for over three weeks in protest over employment conditions. Meanwhile, a police officer was moderately injured Tuesday afternoon when university students protesting outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem tried to break through police line and onto the premises.