Teachers threaten strike over understaffed classes

Preschool educators call for the government to fund more classroom aides for public classes.

Children in kindergarten classroom 311 (photo credit: woodlywonderworks)
Children in kindergarten classroom 311
(photo credit: woodlywonderworks)
Members of the Israel Teachers Union, specifically preschool educators, threatened to go on strike in preschool classes for three- and four-year-olds this week, calling for the government to fund more classroom aides for public pre-school classes.
The Teachers Union had declared a formal labor dispute after the government had decided, last January, to make education for three-and four-year-olds free. The resolution was implemented last month, with the start of the new school year. Since then, public schools have seen a significant rise in attendance for this age group.
The union complains that some of the youngest children in the classroom are not potty-trained, which puts additional strain on the teachers, increasing the need for extra classroom assistants.
Yossi Wasserman, head of the Israel Teachers Union, wrote in a letter to local governments across the country: “It is an impossible situation.
One classroom assistant cannot handle cleaning and changing diapers for all of the children who aren’t potty-trained.” He added that kindergartens are not equipped with the basic tools to take care of children who soil their diapers.
Tamar Zandberg, member of the Tel Aviv City Council has been following the Teachers Union’s struggle on the subject closely: “When my child was three years old and not potty-trained, the school once called me in the middle of a council meeting to come and change my kid’s diaper,” she told, “but at the same time I understand the struggle of the teachers and assistants.”
She explained that classroom aides are not acknowledged by law as education workers but as administrative ones: “Their conditions are not the same as the teachers.
They are very difficult: The salary is low and it’s a very exhausting job.”
Edna Ben-Shitrit, a mother of three, had toilet trained her youngest son two months before enrolling him in kindergarten this year: “I did it especially because he was going to preschool, even though the law doesn’t require parents to potty-train kids by the age of three,” she explained.
“From my experience with my older kid, if he goes into it still wearing diapers, he will feel miserable and uncomfortable,” she added.
Ben-Shitrit also said she has heard of children at her son’s kindergarten that were left with a dirty diaper until their parents came to pick them up.
Today, a preschool classroom consists of one teacher and one assistant for 35 children.
The Teachers Union is waiting for a reaction from the Education Ministry and local governments, responsible for funding classroom aides. No responses have been released as of yet.