Tamir Wants Means-tested Tax to Replace School Fees

Education Minister Yuli Tamir is proposing to change the way school fees are collected from parents by having the National Insurance Institute collect a monthly fee from each pupil's family, based on their socioeconomic level.

According to the proposal, which was presented to the Knesset Education Committee yesterday, the wealthiest families would pay up to 10 times more than families in the lowest income decile.

The money would go into a special fund, to be established by the Education Ministry and the NII, which would then distribute it to schools.

Getting the proposal approved would require changing the law, and then the new system would have to be set up. However, Education Ministry officials believe it would be possible to begin implementing it in about a year.

Currently, parental fees total an estimated NIS 1.5 billion a year.

The main problems with the current system are the ministry's difficulties in ensuring that schools collect only authorized fees, inequality in the basket of services provided to students by different schools and discrimination against children whose parents do not pay the fees.

Schools, Tamir said, have become collection agencies, and parental fees are effectively a "regressive tax" that places an undue burden on weaker segments of society. Therefore, she would like all Israelis with children in the school system to pay an "education fee" instead.

The new payment would be determined according to the parents' income, taking into account the number of children each family has in school.

Ministry officials are working to define the "basket of services" to be covered by parental fees; these will include both mandatory and elective components, which will differ among elementary, junior high and high schools.