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The Arab community is enraged over a plan by Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar to pay differential bonuses to teachers based on the percentage of a school’s students who perform military or civilian national service.
The new model was detailed in a letter sent recently to high school principals nationwide. It states that the bonuses will be determined by four elements: “educational, social-ethical, improvement in educational achievements, and improvement in social-ethical achievements.” Specifically, the criteria will include results on the bagrut (matriculation ) exams, drop-out rates and absorption of special-education students.
The criterion that has Israeli Arabs up in arms, however, is the “measure of service to the state”: the percentage of graduates who do military or civilian national service, which will account for fully 20 percent of the bonus. While “educational” and “social-ethical” criteria will each count toward 50 percent of the bonus overall, within the latter, “service to the state” is worth 40 percent, compared to only 10 percent for, say, absorbing special-ed students.
“This decision is out of place,” said Mohammed Heidari, chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee’s subcommittee on education. “Compensation should be based solely on pedagogic achievements. What’s the connection between enlisting in the Israel Defense Forces and schools?”
Since most Arabs do neither army nor civilian service, he continued, “the clear meaning of these payments is discrimination. This idea was created to discriminate against Arab schools.”
The ministry responded that under its model, each school will be judged only against its peers. Hence Arab schools won’t be judged against Jewish schools on their “service to the state,” but only against other Arab schools.
Heidari stressed that the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee will continue to oppose even civilian service as long as it isn’t severed completely from the Defense Ministry. “In the current situation, it’s an alternative form of military service, and a majority of Arab society opposes it,” he said.
Responding to complaints from Arab principals, MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al ) sent a letter to Sa’ar demanding that the service criterion be dropped.
“Alongside important criteria like special education, preventing drop-outs and educational achievements, it was determined that enlistment in the army or national service is a criterion that entitles schools to 20 percent of the bonus,” he wrote. “This is a nonegalitarian criterion that widens the already existing gap between Jewish and Arab schools and appears to constitute clear discrimination against Arab teachers and schools.”
The principle of differential bonuses based on the school’s achievements is part of a reform signed with the Association of Secondary School Teachers in August 2011. The Education Ministry, the union and the Finance Ministry then spent the last year finalizing the criteria, and the first payments are slated to be made to teachers at the end of the current school year.