Israel’s Finance Ministry may dock the salaries of teachers who refuse to teach for an extra nine days this school year, following an Education Ministry decision to extend the school year due to weeks of missed classes due to the coronavirus lockdown.

From mid-March to mid-May, the entire Israeli school system was shuttered as families “sheltered in place” from COVID-19. However, some schools ultimately employed video conferencing technology to continue classes, albeit on a reduced basis.

Now, the Education Ministry and teachers’ unions are battling over the addition of nine days to the school year, which the government says is necessary to help students make up some of the missed material.

Education Minister Yoav Gallant has threatened to sue the unions if they do not comply with the school-year extension. For kindergartens and elementary schools, the year will be extended to July 13 instead of June 10, and for middle and high schools to July 1 instead of June 20. Eleventh- and 12th-graders are set to finish their studies this week, after which they will take matriculation exams and standardized tests from June 22 until July 27.

The Israel Teachers Union, which represents elementary school staff, has already agreed to the plan on the condition that the Secondary School Teachers’ Association of middle and high school teachers also agrees, which it has not.

Kobi Bar-Nathan, director of Salary and Employment Agreements at the Finance Ministry, responded by informing Education Ministry Director-General Shmuel Abuav, in a letter also sent to the heads of local and regional council groups, that teachers of grades seven to 10 will not receive full pay for teaching they did via distance learning during the lockdown if they do not work the additional days, according to a report by Channel 12.

The letter was also sent to the heads of local and regional council groups.

Ran Erez, chairman of the Secondary School Teachers’ Association, issued a statement calling the pay docking “empty threats, with no legal validity,” adding that since teachers did educate during the lockdown, they have no work to make up.

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