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Special education reform delayed due to lack of preparation

Although the Education Ministry announced two months ago that beginning this coming school year, the “New Horizon” reform will apply to non-formal special education schools, it seems now that the ministry was not prepared in time for the implementation of the reform and the special education schools are not sure the reform will be implemented in the beginning of the school year.

The Education Ministry’s announcement this past June please the parents of approximately 11,000 special education students who learn in the unofficial, recognized special education school system. According to the decision, those students are also supposed to enjoy extra hours of individual time and resting time. At the same time, the teachers in these systems are expected to enjoy a significant rise in their wages according to a new scale and a change in the work frame to 36 weekly hours.

The ministry’s announcement came after a struggle led by the WIZO organization, which included a High Court filing regarding discrimination towards state-immersed students and those in formal, recognized institutions. Following WIZO’s fight, the Education Ministry created an inter-ministerial team along with the Finance Ministry in order to compare between the conditions and to implement the reform in those same systems. It turns out that due to non-preparation, schools do not even know if they need to prepare ahead of the implementation of the reform when there are institutions that decided to delay the implementation by a year, which will directly impede student conditions.

Kobi Hillel, principal of the WIZO Center Bet Hakerem in Jerusalem, the only professional high school in special education, managed the fight for the implementation of the reform in the past four years. Hillel explained that for years, the implementation of the reform was postponed. According to him, in the beginning a reform called “Oz for Compensation” was supposed to be implemented, which was intended for secondary schools, but it was later decided that the entire special education system would be associated with “New Horizon.”

“Students are deprived of hundreds of teaching hours per week, most of them individual, and we are fighting to bring them more hours,” Hillel said. “The reform will make the amount of teaching hours be substantial, but until that moment, we do not know details. We know that we are entitled to a “New Horizon,” but do not even know what the teachers’ salaries will be. The salary must be divided, which teacher will be where, how many hours will each student receive, and until this moment, we have not received the information and it is difficult for us to prepare.”

Hillel emphasized that students of both of the special education schools of WIZO will receive the rights presented in the reform during the coming school year after WIZO as a world organization signed the pledge to integrate it with the Education Ministry and teachers, but adds that this is not the case for all schools. “The big news is that we will receive the additional hours which will help us give more to the students, and that is the most important thing, but there is technical work to be done that is not simple and will burden us, and the school needs to prepare for it. There are institutions that will not enter the reform this year because they weren’t able to prepare in time, and those who will lose are the kids.”

The Education Ministry released a statement saying that “the ministry is preparing to introduce the ‘New Horizon’ reform in schools of special education which are recognized and unofficial. Throughout the current month (August 2019) the ministry will hold executive and property exposure conferences (one conference was already executed).

“The entrance of the reform will occur gradually, and it will be accompanied by guidance by an assimilating team which will guide every principal and every school in all required issues. The Education Ministry published instructions and guidelines for owners and administrators the educational institutions. In the coming days, the ministry will release more guidelines relating to payroll.”

This article was translated from Maariv by Tamar Beeri.

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