New school reform to increase hours, wages for teachers

Teachers across Israel will receive a 53% salary increase; changes to go into effect beginning next school year.

Gideon Saar (photo credit: Ariel Jeorzolimski)
Gideon Saar
(photo credit: Ariel Jeorzolimski)
The Education and Finance ministries and the National Teachers Union reached a landmark agreement on Sunday that will see teachers across the country receive a 51.35-percent pay rise in exchange for an increased workload.
The Education Ministry praised the “historic agreement” for the secondary school system, and vowed that the changes would go into effect beginning in the next school year.
The changes would bring “a dramatic increase in teachers’ salaries, changes to teachers’ work weeks, and will create paths of promotion, tenure and remuneration based on evaluation and excellence,” the ministry said in a statement.
The “Strength to Give” (“Oz l’tmorah”) reforms are expected to cost over NIS 3 billion in teacher salary increases, as well as hundreds of millions of shekels that the Education Ministry will invest in improving the physical condition of schools.
Under the plan, secondary school teachers who are members of the National Teachers Union will receive 51.35% salary increases. Other supplements will be available for those who are recognized as achieving excellence in teaching.
To receive the pay increases, teachers will be required to increase their work week from 24 hours to 40 hours. Of these, 24 will be class teaching hours, six will be individual teaching hours, and 10 will be spent in teaching support.
According to the Education Ministry, the individual hours will be spent with small groups of students who need supplementary assistance, enrichment of school curriculum, and programs to promote academic achievement and strengthen connections between teachers and students.
The ministry described the teaching support hours as a framework in which educators “will hold staff meetings, work on preparing lesson plans, grade student work, and organize meetings with parents and students.”
To ensure that teachers put in the required hours, teachers will have to swipe a time card, the ministry said.
The ministry said teachers could also receive “professional development” supplements for receiving training in their fields.
The reforms promise to provide work areas for each teacher, classrooms for teaching small groups, and the building of a work environment suitable for teachers.
The complete reforms will be put in place in 50 pilot schools in the next school year, and certain aspects of the reforms will go into effect in all schools.
By the 2014-2015 school year the program will go into effect fully in all secondary schools, the ministry said on Sunday.
The plan was announced at a press conference at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem, during which Netanyahu said that “like in other fields where before people only talked [about reforms], also in the field of education we are bringing important reforms.”
Also at the press conference, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar said that “today we are marking a historic date in the education system. We are presenting a detailed agreement on reforms in the secondary schools that will begin to go into effect starting next school year. These reforms represent a new age in the education system and its relations with the teachers organizations.
“Over the next decade we must continue to invest in the same way we are currently investing in education, to bring the school system to where it needs to be – among the best in the world,” Sa’ar said.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said that “this reform will cost us money, but it is worth gold.” He added “our human capital is our real national treasure and we must make sure to nurture it.”
Shlomo Buhbut, head of the Union of Local Authorities, said that while he and his group support increasing teachers salaries, “we see it as a grave matter that they [the Finance and Education ministries] signed off on a deal on teachers’ salaries without entering negotiations with us, when the local authorities are the ones who operate the schools.”
Buhbut also expressed dismay that the Finance Ministry had not addressed what he said were the glaring budgetary deficits suffered by local authorities across the country, while at the same time has agreed to pay billions for teacher salary increases.
Ron Erez, the head of the National Teachers Union who has overseen strikes in the past and on many occasions butted heads with the Education Ministry and the Finance Ministry, called Sunday “the beginning of a new era in the secondary school system.”
In a statement posted on the Teachers Union website, Erez said the union would continue to negotiate with the two ministries over a variety of issues, including pensions and administrator salaries.
Also on Sunday, Sa’ar responded to questions about reports that his ministry is looking to shorten the summer vacation, saying that beginning the school year on August 26 instead of the traditional September 1 had been discussed. Sa’ar’s representative said on Sunday evening that a decision on the matter would be announced soon, but that in all likelihood the summer vacation would be shortened by a few days, and the equivalent number of extra days off would be added during the school year.