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Jewish Agency Schools in Palestine May Not Reopen Next Week: Difficulty over Position of Teachers.

The Jewish Agency schools in Palestine may not reopen on Sunday on account of the state of uncertainty created by the issue of notices to all the teachers employed in the schools that they are not to consider themselves re-engaged unless they receive a special invitation.

A deputation of the teachers has interviewed the Executive of the Jewish Agency on the situation and have been promised a definite statement on Tuesday which will clear up the position.

All the teachers employed in the schools of the Jewish Agency received notices in June, preceding the last Zionist Congress, that their engagements terminate on September 30th. Dr. Berkson, the Director of Education of the Jewish Agency, and a member of the new Executive of the Jewish Agency, told the J.T.A. at the time that the retiring Executive would recommend their successors to give preference to those teachers who were then employed in the schools, and that it was anticipated that the great majority of them would be re-engaged. The notice, which is merely formal, he said, has been sent to about 450 permanent teachers, and may involve the dismissal of 50 permanent and 50 temporary teachers. This has been rendered necessary by the reduction of the education grant from £77,000 to £57,000 by the last Zionist Congress.

The rules require that notice of discharge to teachers must be given three months before the end of the year, according to the report of the Education Department to the Congress. For this reason, during the last few years, it said, a number of teachers, anywhere from 75 to 150, had to be given notice of dismissal, on July 1st., while awaiting the result of the Congress decision on the budget in the middle of the summer. Naturally, it went on, the discharge of teachers creates a tumult. In recent years the schools have been opened late because there is an insufficient interval between the Congress and the beginning of the school year to make the adjustments rendered necessary by a new budget. It is impossible to build up an educational system under the pressure of annual crises, hysteria, and hectic planning. A three years’ plan of development is needed for constructive work; the very least possible is a two years’ plan, which would introduce basic changes only one year after the Congress decision.

The difficulty, in so far as it concerns the salaries of the teachers, is of many years’ standing. During the two-year period immediately preceding the formation of the enlarged Jewish Agency, the Education Department report to the last Congress said, the arrears in teachers’ salaries, which had accumulated for six months, had been paid off, and up to October 1930, teachers’ salaries were paid more or less regularly. But the more favourable condi- tion did not endure. The opening of the schools at the beginning of 5691 was again delayed, this time by the late sessions of the General Council of the Zionist Organisation and of the Administrative Committee of the Jewish Agency, which were held at the end of the summer of 1930. These bodies must approve the budget before the Department of Education can begin to organise the classes for the new year. On the eve of the opening of the schools a teachers’ strike, due to proposed changes in the salary scale, was narrowly avoided. The economic crisis, growing in severity from month to month, gravely prejudiced constructive development. The work was continually disturbed by the discussions arising out of proposed reductions in salary and by failure to pay salaries. After the Passover vacation, the teachers refused to reopen the schools if their salaries were to be cut in accordance with the decision of the General Council, claiming that they had already suffered a reduction in salary in 1924, and alleging that the corresponding cut in salaries of officials, which at that time they had made a condition for the voluntary reduction in teachers’ salaries, had not been carried into effect. The strike lasted for a week, the teachers finally consenting to accept the good offices of the Vaad Leumi in bringing about a settlement of the differences with the Executive, a solution which the Executive had expressed its readiness to accept before the strike was called. At the time of the submission of this Report (middle of May, 1931), it added, no final settlement of the question of the reduction in teachers’ salaries had been made. The teachers’ salaries have fallen three months in arrears, the last payment made during Passover week having been for the month of January.

Mr. O. E. d’Avigdor Goldsmid, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency Council, referred to the position of the teachers in the course of his speech at the Kingsway Hall meeting this week, when, in urging the need of increased contributions to relieve the financial difficulties of the Jewish Agency, he said, inter alia: Teachers and staff have not received their salaries up to date and, in fact, are months in arrears.

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