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An analysis of Tel Aviv municipal spending and the draft budget for 2009 reveals large gaps in the field of education between the city's wealthier north and south. In the past five years, for example, the city spent about NIS 28 million on kindergartens in northern neighborhoods and only NIS 3.5 million in southern ones, according to a budget analysis by Ir Lekulanu, the municipal party headed by MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), in preparation for yesterday's vote on the 2009 budget.

For its report Ir Lekulanu examined only the extraordinary budget from previous years, which is used primarily for special projects and not for day-to-day operation of the city's own kindergartens. A per-capita breakdown of this spending in various areas of the city found that while NIS 1,287 was lavished on each kindergartener in the north, only NIS 152 was spent on his or her counterpart in the south of the city in recent years.

These figures are especially meaningful in the context of the shortage of places in Tel Aviv's municipal kindergartens.

"The policy of the municipality, headed by [Mayor] Ron Huldai, clearly prefers to develop kindergartens in the northern part of the city. During the past two years the municipality has built only four new kindergartens - all of them in the north," an Ir Lekulanu member said this week.

The examination also determined that the level of crowding in Arab state-run kindergartens in Jaffa is the highest of all the education networks, with an average of about 43 children per class, compared to about 29 children in the other systems.

"The average allocation for building kindergarten classrooms in the Arab state system in Jaffa has amounted to zero shekels," Ir Lekulanu member Yael Ben Yefet said. "However, in the other systems, there has been an increase in the number of kindergarten classrooms and the crowding in them has decreased."

She said the municipality "believes it is investing a great deal in the southern part of the city, in kindergartens and schools, but this is a partial investment that is not significantly changing the difficult reality in which schools in the southern part of the city are compelled to operate."

The municipality issued the following statement in response: "The data concerning investment in the north and in the south reflect a demographic process that is happening in the city, which is leading to positive migration of young families into the city, families that are choosing to live in the north and center of the city. In order to provide for the new residents the municipality is investing and building kindergarten classrooms in places where they are lacking. In the southern part of the city and in Jaffa the municipality is providing fully for existing needs."