The supply of services by educational psychologists in the schools has been neglected for two decades, and there is now a 30% shortfall in staff, Treasury officials said Wednesday at a joint session of the Knesset Health Committee and the Education, Culture, and Sports Committee.
When Treasury officials promised the MKs that “a new salary agreement is being prepared,” Health Committee chairman Yonatan Mishraki (Shas) and Education Committee chairman Yosef Taieb (Shas) said it was “a Band-Aid when a root-canal treatment is required.”
Major reform is needed as a result of the war, after 20 years of neglect, underfunding, and inadequate manpower, the officials said.
Many educational psychologists have moved from the public to the private sector over this period because they can earn much more there, they said, adding that significant salary benefits were needed to lure them back to public educational institutions. The MKs said they agreed.
Current situation cannot continue
Yesh Atid MK Meir Cohen said the Finance Ministry must not be allowed to continue with the current situation – after the Hamas terrorist massacre, murders, hostage taking, and the losses during the war – because “one-time grants from the Treasury are always intended to hide problems.”
Yesh Atid MK Dvora Biton said there was a low weekly frequency of psychological treatment for residents of Sderot.Likud MK Tsega Melaku said weak populations were the main consumers of public psychologists.
Mai Shmuel, a representative of the Treasury’s wages department, said a framework agreement had been established about five months ago before the war began, and much work has been done on a new wage agreement that is taking shape.
Dimona Mayor Benny Bitton said he was trying to get funding for local students to study psychology in exchange for their commitment to work in the city for a few years after their certification. Currently, 35 psychologists work in Dimona for NIS 100 per hour, compared with NIS 48 in the rest of the country.
Hava Friedman, director of the Education Ministry’s educational psychology division, said many youth, including children of IDF reservists, were very anxious about the current situation. Half of the educational psychologists were just interns, so a new salary agreement must include them, she said.
Retired psychologists have volunteered to treat children of evacuees from the South and North and others staying at hotels at the Dead Sea and Eilat, Friedman said.
According to the Knesset Information and Research Center, 2,936 psychologists specializing in educational psychology were recognized in the Psychologists Registry last July. Over the past five years, an average of 149 educational psychologists were added each year. There are several hundred interns in the educational-psychological service working part-time.
According to the Education Ministry’s psychological advisory service, about 3,600 educational psychologists are employed in the school system, most of them part-time. The ministry’s data shows that in addition to the low standard, there is an estimated 30% shortfall in educational psychologists, meaning that even before the outbreak of the war, almost 30% of those needed according to the existing manpower standard were absent from the system.