School Spending per Child in Israel’s 40 Largest Communities: A Survey

While poorer towns rely on Education Ministry funds for the lion’s share of their schools’ budgets, richer communities supplement the funding they get from the state with more of their own resources

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A student walks out of a school in Tel Aviv
A student walks out of a school in Tel AvivCredit: David Bachar
Lior Dattel
Lior Dattel

Of all of the sizable towns in Israel, Ra’anana spends the most from its own funds on its schools, TheMarker found in a survey of municipal spending per schoolchild in Israel’s 40 largest community. That is in addition to state education funding.

While poorer towns rely on Education Ministry funds for the lion’s share of their schools’ budgets, richer communities supplement the funding they get from the state with more of their own resources.

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The wealthy suburb of Ra’anana, north of Tel Aviv, spent 8,478 shekels ($2,300) of its own funds per student in 2016, on top of the 20,658 shekels per student capita it received from the state. It was followed by Ramat Gan, also a suburb of Tel Aviv, at 7,307 shekels. In third place was Tel Aviv itself, at 7,113 shekels. Rounding out the top five were Herzliya, just west of Ra’anana, at 7,039 shekels, and Kfar Sava, just east of Ra’anana, at 6,779 shekels.

The data (which in two cases also included kindergartens) were based on figures from the Education Ministry and the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The Education Ministry provides funding for elementary and junior high schools, in accordance with criteria that include the community’s socioeconomic status, in an effort to provide more support to disadvantaged communities. (High schools are not subject to this criterion.) But schools in wealthier cities generally benefit from greater local funding on top of this. The finance and education ministries have actually attempted in the past to cut state funding for more well-to-do communities to free up additional funds for weaker locales, but opposition from the local governments in these communities thwarted the cuts.

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The municipal spending can also be skewed, it should be noted, by the mix of the types of schools in a community and the number of students per school. Spending varies based on age distribution of the school population as well and the prevalence, for example, of independent ultra-Orthodox schools that receive less per student in public funding.

The socioeconomics and demographics of a community are a major factor in municipal school funding. Arab and Haredi communities are heavily represented at the bottom of the rankings of funding by the 40 largest municipalities themselves. The northern Israeli Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, for example, spends 956 shekels per student per year of its own funds, but that is on top of the state’s 22,673 shekels. The Arab city of Nazareth spends 764 shekels per student. The ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlements of Betar Ilit and Modi’in Ilit spend just 715 and 640 shekels respectively.

In the Bedouin city of Rahat, near Be’er Sheva, the municipality kicks in just 48 shekels per student per year. That is supplemented by 20,181 shekels in state funding, however, bringing the total per student to 20,229 shekels.

Bridging the gaps

In many towns, state funding goes a long way toward bridging the gap. Poorer municipalities in outlying parts of the country generally receive more per capita from the state than more well-to-do city governments. The state gives the most to the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Acre, at 28,719 shekels per student, followed by Afula, at 28,580 shekels and Tiberias at 27,077.

Jerusalem, the country’s largest city by population, receives 18,009 shekels per student and adds just 2,568 shekels of its own funding, bringing the total to 20,577. The Jerusalem figures are dragged down by the large number of students in ultra-Orthodox schools, but in addition, it should be noted, Arab students in East Jerusalem receive low per capita funding.

Among the country’s two other largest cities, Tel Aviv’s 7,113 shekels in per capita municipal funding comes on top of 20,019 in state funds, bringing the total to 32,132. Haifa received 22,624 shekels from the state per student. Its 4,274 brings the total to 26,898 shekels per capita per year.

When ranked by overall spending per schoolchild, by both the national and local government, Acre comes out on top, followed by Tel Aviv. Although Tel Aviv is considerably wealthier than Acre, students in the two cities receive similar amounts of per capita funding overall because of the high level of state funding that Acre schools get.

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