JERUSALEM (Feb. 21)
The Cabinet today approved a 475 billion Shekel ($26.4 billion) austerity budget which would reduce expenditures for education by three percent and freeze defense spending at current levels. It immediately touched off a two hour protest strike by teachers.
The paring of the education budget represented a compromise between Finance Minister Yoram Aridor, who had demanded a 7.5 percent cut, and Education Minister Zevulun Hammer, who wanted no cuts at all. Their differences were mediated by Economics Minister Yaacov Meridor.
The Cabinet added several provisions, including assurances that there would be no second shifts in public schools because of the reduced budget and a promise to add several dozen classrooms “to solve specific problems.”
The Cabinet also stated that its wage policy for the public sector would include the educational system and that any deviation from the policy would have to come from the Education Ministry’s budget as approved today.
That provision stirred the ongoing controversy with teachers over implementation of the Etzioni report which recommended last year a drastic reform of the education system to improve its standards and the salaries of teachers. The Treasury is opposed to the recommendations on grounds that they are inflationary. The teachers, charging that the government has no intention of implementing them, walked out of their classrooms for two hours today.