Tamir, Tirosh talk trash during Knesset hearing

Teachers tell Knesset Education C'tee of pressure to join New Horizon reform plan.

Tamir Tirosh 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
Tamir Tirosh 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) claimed Education Minister Yuli Tamir (Labor) whispered to her that she was "a piece of garbage or a piece of shit" as the two women sat next to each other at a Knesset Education Committee meeting on Tuesday. Tamir rejected the allegation, saying she had "not called Tirosh anything. I said I was still cleaning out the garbage and shit that she had left in the ministry." Tirosh was director-general of the Education Ministry under Tamir's predecessor, MK Limor Livnat (Likud). Speaking to Ynet after the hearing, Tamir added that she had muttered to committee chairman Michael Melchior (Labor) that Tirosh should stop "throwing all the shit at me." Tirosh, meanwhile, called on Melchior to sanction Tamir. Tamir said her statements had been unusual for her, "but everyone's patience has its limits," she told Ynet. Melchior will not take any action of his own accord, and it is up to Tirosh to appeal to the Knesset Ethics Committee over Tamir's comments, The Jerusalem Post was told. Tirosh's aide told the Post Tuesday night that she had not yet decided whether to bring the matter to the Ethics Committee. Tamir's office released a statement saying, "This is the height of arrogance for the MK who, during her five years at the Education Ministry, helped cut billions from the budget and 250,000 teaching hours. Instead of doing penance for her sin, the MK is doing everything in her power to torpedo the reform that the education minister is leading along with the Israel Teachers Union, while attempting to make people forget her responsibility for the decline of the education system during her tenure. Despite that, the education minister apologizes for using an unparliamentary phrase." The committee hearing, which was called to discuss the "New Horizon" elementary school reform plan that was signed two weeks ago, had already devolved into accusations and counter-accusations, and people's patience had clearly worn thin when the incident occurred between Tamir and Tirosh. After the meeting, Melchior released a statement saying, "I am disgusted by the style of debate which developed in the committee. This is not the way of the Education Committee under my leadership, and this is not the way the Knesset should become a role model for children." Earlier in the discussion, Melchior ejected a man from the room, saying, "This is the first time I have ever thrown anyone out." Teachers complained to the committee that they had been threatened with dismissal if they did not join the reform plan. Several also claimed that schools were being brought into the reform plan by their principals even though a majority of teachers had expressed the desire to remain outside the reform. Teacher Gila Mor told the lawmakers, "Just yesterday there was a conference where it was announced that three schools - Ayanot, Matzada and Tkuma - which had sent refusal letters from the teachers are still adopting the reform. No one has addressed the teachers' objections." Yael Zilberman told a similar story. "We are capitulating to the principals' threats like a passive herd. Three weeks before the end of the school year, the school principal came and said that we are adopting the reform and anyone who doesn't want to can look for a new job," she told the committee. On the other side, Ora Gavrieli said that not a single teacher had asked to get out of the reform in the school where she teaches. Moreover, they had received raises of between NIS 2,000 and NIS 3,000 per month. Speakers had a hard time finishing their sentences before being cut off by someone else. Israel Teachers Union head Yossi Wasserman said that "122 members of the central committee unanimously voted in favor of the reform three times. It is a reform of all the teachers, but anyone who wants to can stay out of it or leave. There are 7,300 teachers who have signed on and 8,000 who have not." Tamir responded to the complaints by promising that more information was forthcoming and by accusing people of spreading disinformation. "There is a group of people who don't want to work. There are people who are spreading a lot of disinformation, and therefore there are a lot of confused teachers. When my predecessors introduced the Dovrat reform and the longer school day, they didn't ask the teachers. When we come to the teachers and want to explain, we get attacked for it," she said. "We know change isn't easy, but this is the right way. The agreement was signed just under two weeks ago and we are still putting together a booklet," she went on. "It turns out that there aren't two teachers who work for the same salary, and therefore there need to be explanations so that everyone can find themselves [on the pay scale]." Tirosh challenged Tamir to reassure the teachers. "Just say that no teacher will be harmed [by the reform] and any teacher who doesn't want to be part of the reform doesn't have to," she said.