'Olmert has zero interest in education'

Former education minister Yossi Sarid explains why he supports the nationwide high-school teachers' strike In early November the teachers' strike, which shut down most of Israel's 1,200 public high schools and over 40 percent of its junior high schools - affecting nearly 500,000 students - entered its third week. The dispute focuses on crowded classes, increased work loads and low wages - Israeli school teachers make as little as 4,000 shekels ($1,000) per month, among the lowest salaries for the profession in the Western world. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert defended the government's position, saying it was offering teachers a substantial wage increase and other benefits. Separately, university lecturers are also striking. Former Meretz party leader Yossi Sarid was education minister from 1999-2000 and has recently been a volunteer teacher in rocket-battered Sderot. Asked why he supports the teachers' strike, Sarid points a finger at government apathy: "Olmert has about as much interest in education as Ehud Barak did when he was prime minister. Zero!" The Jerusalem Report: Why do you support the striking teachers? Yossi Sarid: There is no choice. I am referring to the abysmally low pay of teachers in Israel, less than half than in other Western countries. Low pay translates into bitter and resentful teachers and draws untalented people to the profession. Overcrowding is also a big problem. With 40 kids in the class, half the time is devoted to keeping order. I taught in Kiryat Shmona and Sderot. It's much more exhausting than being a Knesset member. For full story please subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here to subscribe.