The price of learning is not the same in all Israeli schools
In all, 400,000 Israeli schoolchildren are in the book-lending program. The parents of elementary school students must pay a NIS 280 fee; it costs NIS 320 for high school students.
Supplying a child with schoolbooks this year will cost some parents just NIS 280, while others will pay hundreds of shekels more. Everyone agrees it's not fair, but no one is sure where to lay the blame.
The law instituting the lending of schoolbooks to pupils by the schools themselves was passed in 2000 to lower the formidable cost to parents, but various obstacles have stood in the way of its implementation. This year 700 schools are joining the 900 already in the program. The 1,600 schools constitute 35 percent of the country's elementary and high schools.
In all, 400,000 Israeli schoolchildren are in the book-lending program. The parents of elementary school students must pay a NIS 280 fee; it costs NIS 320 for high school students. Parents of those not in the program are forced to lay out an average of NIS 600 to NIS 800 per child for new books at retail prices.
So the question remains: why are most schools still not on board? The reasons vary: The budget falls short of covering all schools; some schools choose not to take part in the program because the books become outdated quickly, despite a pledge by the Education Ministry not to change the basket for five years; other schools can't find or pay for a program coordinator; still others do not have facilities to store the books.
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to a school adopting the program has been the requirement that 90% of parents must approve of it. Some parents were against it because they did not want their children working from used books. Others didn't even know the program existed, so could not vote to join it. That requirement, however, was lowered to 60% this year, which means the program should have gained approval in more schools.
Many schools, however, only received instructions from the Education Ministry about joining the program in early April, with registration already closing in May. So even many of those that wanted to join didn't have enough time to apply. The ministry claims book publishers are at fault for the delay, but the publishers deny this.
Meanwhile there is more money for the book-lending program, as per a recommendation by the Trajtenberg Committee. The overall budget has been increased to a one-time contribution of NIS 100 million for new books, plus NIS 20 million a year to replenish the supply.
Thus, each school in the program receives an average of NIS 40,000 to buy the books. Students are obligated to return the books at the end of the year in good condition, so that they can be passed along to students in the following class.