Arab Students in Jerusalem Get Less Than Half the Funding of Jewish Counterparts

Municipality transfers less to East Jerusalem schools than the budget provided by the Education Ministry.

A high school in A-Tur, East Jerusalem, Jan. 2016.
Emil Salman

A pupil in a municipal high school in East Jerusalem gets less than half the funding of his counterpart in the western part of the capital, according to the Jerusalem municipality’s budget.

In fact, there are East Jerusalem schools that don’t even get the funds that the Education Ministry gives the city for them, as is shown by an analysis of the budget. The municipality claims that the analysis is incorrect and ignores the differences between the educational systems.

There are 782 pupils in the Beit Hinuch High School in western Jerusalem and 783 in the Ras al-Amud boys’ high school in the east of the capital. Both are municipal high schools, meaning that their budgets come from the municipality and the Education Ministry. The total budget allocated by the city for Beit Hinuch in 2016 is 16.3 million shekels ($4.3 million,) while the Arab school, with the same number of pupils, will be getting only 2.9 million shekels ($766,993). The number of teaching positions approved for Beit Hinuch is 70.8, while for Ras al-Amud it is only 21.7.

A comparison of every clause in the budget indicates that the funding for the western Jerusalem school is immeasurably higher than that of its East Jerusalem counterpart.

The municipality responded that the schools could not be compared and that doing so was manipulative. “Just like you can’t compare Haaretz to Israel Hayom, you can’t compare different schools of different sizes and different characteristics, with different numbers of teachers and sources of funding found in other clauses,” the municipality said.

Arab Students in Jerusalem Get Less Than Half the Funding of Jewish Counterparts
Emil Salman

But efforts to find special clauses benefiting schools in East Jerusalem turned up nothing. For example, the municipality claims that the lack of school buildings in the east of the city requires it to spend large sums on rent. Indeed, the city is spending some 42 million shekels this year to rent facilities for schools in East Jerusalem.

But the school in Ras al-Amud is not on the list of schools in rented facilities for which rent is being paid. And even if it were, the highest amount of rent the city is paying for a single building is a million shekels a year, which doesn’t explain the 13 million shekel funding gap between the two schools.

The city also claimed that extra money is spent on renovations in East Jerusalem, but the budget shows that the Arab sector actually gets the least of any of the three sectors (general, ultra-Orthodox, and Arab) for renovations. Arab schools received eight million shekels for renovations this year, while ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) schools got 42 million shekels and secular and national religious schools got 46 million shekels.

Moreover, a check of the funds transferred by the Education Ministry indicates that Arab schools do not get the amount allocated to them by the ministry. In west Jerusalem, by contrast, not only does the city spend all the money it receives from the government, it adds additional funding from the municipal budget.

Thus, for example, the Education Ministry budgeted 4.9 million shekels for the school in Ras al-Amud, but it only received 2.9 million shekels from the city. Beit Hinuch, on the other hand, received the full 14.9 million shekels budgeted by the ministry with an additional 1.4 million shekels from the ministry.

Discriminatory practice is not unique to these two schools. An inquiry conducted by city councilor Laura Wharton (Meretz) showed that 11 of the 17 city high schools in East Jerusalem got less money, sometimes millions less, than had been provided by the Education Ministry. In West Jerusalem the opposite is true; every single school except one got more money than the funding provided by the government, meaning the city augmented their budgets with its own funds.

The gaps are also evident in the original funding budgeted by the Education Ministry. For the 12,864 high school pupils in East Jerusalem’s municipal high schools, the ministry budgeted 106 million shekels, while for the 7,009 high school pupils in West Jerusalem the government budget totaled 136 million shekels.

It should be noted that government funding is based on various factors, including teacher seniority (usually higher in West Jerusalem,) the academic majors available and whether the teachers joined the salary reform plans (Oz Letmura and Ofek Hadash).

Education sources in Jerusalem tried to explain the gaps by saying that the self-management of schools customary in West Jerusalem but not in East Jerusalem puts more money in the hands of West Jerusalem schools. Another reason given was that East Jerusalem schools cannot utilize all their available budgets because they lack infrastructure. For example, if the school does not have a computer room, it will have a hard time getting teaching hours for technology courses.

East Jerusalem educators see it differently. One East Jerusalem principal said Jewish parents are much better at demanding money for their schools. “They speak Hebrew, they have NGOs and lawyers, they know exactly what their budget is and expect to get 100 percent of it. And if they don’t, they go to war,” the principal said.

“What we’re finding here is that not only does the municipality not give the same funding to the eastern city that it gives to pupils in the west, but it actually takes from budgets that are destined for pupils in East Jerusalem,” said Wharton. “This is scandalous. I certainly hope that the Education Ministry, the state comptroller and anyone who cares about proper administration will help investigate this and correct what’s necessary.”

The municipality, in its response, decried Haaretz’s “reliance on data collected by a politician with clear and irrelevant considerations” to make headlines.

The city explained the difference between self-managed schools and those in East Jerusalem by saying that East Jerusalem schools get some of their expenses paid by the city directly, unlike Jewish schools, which are given all their funding and must cover their expenses from that. “It must be stressed that all money from the Education Ministry is allocated for specific purposes and is reported to the Education Ministry as required,” the city added.