School Fees Put at 4.7 Billion Shekels Annually

Estimate by Knesset research body says most money goes to enrichment lessons

11th graders in a Tel Aviv high school taking a test, February 23, 2011.
Nir Kafri

Israeli parents pay about 4.3 billion shekels ($1.22 billion) in school and preschool fees every year, with most of that amount coming from wealthier families for enrichment lessons at their local schools, according to a report released on Sunday by the Knesset Research and Information Center.

The figures, which came from the Education Ministry, showed that 3 billion shekels was used for enrichment classes, and much of the rest for school trips and parties. But those classes are generally sponsored by school in wealthier communities where families can afford to pay for them.

The law officially only allows school to collect approximately 50 shekels a year for accident insurance, but the Education Ministry also allows them to collect for textbook-lending programs, cultural activities, trips and events. The ceiling on those fees range from 266 shekels a year at preschools to 1,400 shekels in high school.

They are also permitted to collect fees for enrichment lessons that can add up to thousands of shekels every year, which means the burden on families can be quite heavy.

The Knesset report was prepared at the request of MK Yakov Margi (Shas), who has been leading a campaign to reform the system by having the National Insurance Institute collect fees as a tax based on family income and bar schools from imposing them.

However, both the NII and the Education Ministry oppose the idea, the Knesset report said. The NII doesn’t see itself as a tax-collecting body and the ministry believes that the proposal wouldn’t not include enrichment lesson costs and leave individual schools no flexibility to create programs.

A report by TheMarker in November found that fees were often used to cover the costs of children whose families that cannot or will not pay them. The Education Ministry has never established a policy about parents who refuse to pay, leaving the schools with no recourse.