Mind the education gap: Hidden data highlights growing inequality

The Education Ministry hoped its differential budget policy would narrow the gaps in education investment in Israel. But a special Shomrim-Calcalist project reveals how local authorities are actually making the problem worse. The facts, figures and discrepancies that authorities don’t want you to see.

The Education Ministry hoped its differential budget policy would narrow the gaps in education investment in Israel. But a special Shomrim-Calcalist project reveals how local authorities are actually making the problem worse. The facts, figures and discrepancies that authorities don’t want you to see.

The Education Ministry hoped its differential budget policy would narrow the gaps in education investment in Israel. But a special Shomrim-Calcalist project reveals how local authorities are actually making the problem worse. The facts, figures and discrepancies that authorities don’t want you to see.

Shahar Ilan

Data collection and processing Doron Broitman

August 31, 2020

Summary

I

n the league table of cities and how much they spend on education, Tel Aviv is the undisputed Israeli champion, with an average annual investment in educating the city’s children of 8,650 shekels. For perspective, that’s more than three times the amount spent by Jerusalem – Israel’s largest metropolis – which invents a meager 3,000 shekels a year on average, placing it third-from-last in the list of 77 municipalities.

This is just one of the findings from a special investigation conducted by Shomrim and Calcalist, which calculated local authorities’ investment in students and uncovered polices that exacerbate geographical and socioeconomic inequalities and nullify Education Ministry efforts to promote affirmative action and narrow the gaps.

The local authority that spends more than any other on its students is the Tamar Regional Council in the Jordan Valley, which invests the almost unbelievable sum of around 54,000 shekels a year per student – more than 14 times the average of 3,800 shekels. This astronomical sum can be explained by the fact that Tamar is in the peripheries and contains relatively small communities that are geographically distant from each other. This doesn’t paint the full picture, however, since the two localities at the bottom of the 124-council table – Al-Batuf and Neve Midbar – are also regional councils. Indeed, Al-Batuf, which contains four Arab villages in the Galilee, invests an annual sum of minus 442 shekels per student. In other words, it spent 442 shekels less per student than the budget provided by the Education Ministry.

At the top of the pile of Israel’s 53 local councils is Rosh Pina, which spends 15,200 shekels per year per student, a staggering 35 times more than the local council at the bottom of the table, the Bedouin town of Lakiya in the south, with its 450 shekels per student. Among the small and medium-sized cities, Kiryat Bialik invests more than any other per student – 11,000 shekels a year, or more than double the sum invested by neighboring Kiryat Yam, where annual spending per student totals just 4,700 shekels, and eight times more than nearby Shfar’am, which invests a paltry 1,300 shekels per student each year.

The severe economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, meanwhile, is only going to widen the social gaps illustrated by this analysis. Financially strong local authorities, for example, will be able to purchase computers for students who don’t have one; they also boast public buildings that will facilitate capsule learning. To put it plainly: Students in well-off localities will learn better and for longer hours.

Everyone’s happy to keep the figures hidden

In May 2013, the government of Israel adopted a new and crucial policy decision about transparency, which obligated the Education Ministry to publish an annual report detailing all the resources it transferred to educational institutions across the country, by sector, age group, local authority and socioeconomic segment. In 2015, the ministry launched a special website that displays every last detail of annual budget, from individual schools to the education system as a whole. You would be very hard-pressed to find another government ministry that outlines the use of its budget in such a publicly accessible manner.

Seven years after the government's decision to publish an annual report detailing all the resources the Ministry of Education transferred to educational institutions across the country, by sector, age group, local authority and socioeconomic segment a key component of the decision has yet to be implemented: local authorities’ investment in education. The significance of these figures in terms of obtaining a true picture of investment in students cannot be overstated.

But seven years on from the government's decision, and five since the launch of the site, a key component of the decision has yet to be implemented: local authorities’ investment in education. The significance of these figures in terms of obtaining a true picture of investment in students cannot be overstated.

Local government participates in the funding of educational institutions in two ways. The first comes in the form of supplementary financing for budgetary items for which the Education Ministry is the principal funder. This includes such expenses as school secretariats, cleaning staff, regular official inspections and transportation. The second is independent funding for services, facilities and amenities for which the Education Ministry does not provide any financial assistance.

Absurdly, even though local authority provide details of the education budget to a different state entity – the Central Bureau of Statistics, which publishes them as part of its local government database – these figure do not appear on the Education Ministry’s website. While this data does not allow us to compare between individual schools, it certainly allows for comparisons to be made between local authorities. The analysis herein was conducted by cross-referencing figures from the Education Ministry’s so-called “Transparency in Education” website with date from the CBS. And while combining two different data systems comes with statistical limitations (see box at end of article for details on the project’s methodology), the figures, for the first time, offer an overall picture of the distribution of education budgets in Israel according to locality, exposing the true gaps between them.

The budgets nullifying affirmative action

The Education Ministry, in recent years, has adopted a differential budget for primary and middle schools. In other words, its budget prioritizes schools among the weaker sectors of society. According to our analysis, however, around 14 percent of public investment in education comes from local government – which can and does lead to huge gaps and negates any attempt at affirmative action. Considering, too, that this 14 percent is an average that includes both strong and weak local authorities, the problem is a lot greater. In practice, budgets set aside by affluent local authorities constitute tens of percent of the public funding of education on the whole, as opposed to just single-digit percentages and even lower in the weaker localities. These local authority budgets, as a result, trump the differential budgeting and, in many cases, actually have the opposite effect in terms of narrowing the equality gap.

Another problematic element is the matching system, whereby local authorities are required to contribute around 20 percent of the costs of auxiliary educational services, including psychologists, transportation, and building new kindergartens. Poorer local authorities often forgo such services because they can’t afford the 20 percent participation requirement, with leftover funding then going to wealthier localities. To counter this problem, the Education Ministry should determine a minimum set of services for which weak local authorities wouldn’t have to pay at all.

A local authority can’t be told not to invest in its residents if it has the funding to do so. At the same time, these gaps exist and they must be addressed when slicing up the national pie. And the figures herein are of particular significance right now, at the height of one of the most severe economic crises in Israel’s history. The national education budget is likely to be slashed, leaving the education system even more dependent on financing from local government and parents – a sure-fire recipe for a widening of the gaps.

The socioeconomic status of residents influences a local authority’s ability to invest in education in several ways, including the fact that affluent residents pay high local property taxes in full, and don’t get discounts. At the same time, welfare expenditure in stronger authorities is lower, with the available money then freed up for other purposes. Furthermore, well-to-do individuals tend to live in cities that have a high concentration of places of employment, which pay high local property taxes. However, of course, there are middle-class local authorities, too, which boast an ample supply of income-producing real estate and can also invest large sums in education, such as the Tamar Regional Council in the Jordan Valley, or Kiryat Bialik, which surprisingly emerged as a city that spends big on its students.

Big cities: Tel Aviv outspends Jerusalem

These equality gaps are perhaps best illustrated by a comparison between Israel’s two largest cities. Leading the table of big cities (those with a population of over 100,000) is Israel’s second-largest metropolis, Tel Aviv, which invests 8,650 shekels a year per student – a sum that constitutes approximately one-quarter of per-student public expenditure in the city. Second place among the big cities goes to Ramat Gan, with an annual per-student investment of 7,700 shekels, or 28 percent of public expenditure per student in the city in total.

A local authority can’t be told not to invest in its residents if it has the funding to do so. At the same time, these gaps exist and they must be addressed when slicing up the national pie. And the figures herein are of particular significance right now, at the height of one of the most severe economic crises in Israel’s history. The national education budget is likely to be slashed, leaving the education system even more dependent on financing from local government and parents – a sure-fire recipe for a widening of the gaps.

In third place from the bottom is Israel’s largest metropolis, Jerusalem, a city with two-thirds of its residents counted among Israel’s poorest population sectors, the Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox. On average, the Jerusalem Municipality invests just 3,000 shekels a year per student, or a little more than one-third (35 percent) of the per-student spending in Tel Aviv. And indeed, in Jerusalem, the municipality's expenditure per student constitutes just 13 percent of public spending per student in total. It’s safe to assume, too, that this wouldn’t be possible without a special government grant to the capital, which amounted in 2018 to 800 million shekels.

Second from the bottom is the increasingly ultra-Orthodox city of Beit Shemesh, where the municipality spends just 2,300 shekels a year per student. And sitting at the bottom of the pile is the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, with an annual per-student investment of 1,800 shekels. In other words, the Bnei Brak Municipality gives its students one-fifth of the sum that students in Tel Aviv get from their local government.

It’s important to note that a large number of schools in ultra-Orthodox cities are private institutions and receive a significantly lower budget from the Education Ministry. That said, precisely because of this, a budgetary boost from the municipality would be very helpful. Due, however, to the low socio-economic status of the populations in these cities, the abundance of multiple-children families and the relative lack of office and industrial space, municipal revenues don’t allow this. By the way, as low as the municipal support for education is in the abovementioned ultra-Orthodox cities, it’s still higher than spending-per-student in the new ultra-Orthodox cities of Modi’in Ilit and Betar Ilit, which have almost no income at all from commercial property taxes.

It’s very easy to see the direct correlation between the position of a large city in the per-student spending table and the city’s socioeconomic status. The top three cities in the table are highly ranked (Cluster 8) in terms of socioeconomic status, whereas the bottom three fall into Cluster 2. Occupying a surprisingly good position in the table is Netanya, which falls into Cluster 6 in terms of socioeconomic status, but still takes sixth place when it comes to per-student investment among Israel’s big cities, with 5,000 shekels a year.

We chose also to examine how Israel’s largest Arab city, Nazareth, with 77,000 residents, would fare in the table. Sadly, Nazareth finishes last, way behind Bnei Brak, with annual spending of just 1,200 shekels per student.

The national champion: Tamar

The local authority that invests most in its students is the wealthy Tamar Regional Council, which spends 54,000 shekels a year on each of its 326 students. Located within the jurisdiction of Tamar are the Dead Sea Works potash plant and the Dead Sea hotels, which generate significant revenue from property taxes. At the same time, small class sizes, long-distance transportation funding and the need to bring in teachers from afar all add to the high spending on education. Nevertheless, a less affluent regional council clearly wouldn’t be able to afford such an investment. Together with the 46,000 shekels per student that the regional council receives from the Education Ministry, each of Tamar’s schoolgoers is enjoying an investment of some 100,000 shekels a year. In comparison, second in the table is the Mevo’ot HaHermon Regional Council, which spends 18,400 shekels per student, or one-third of the sum invested by Tamar.

Tamar’s economic status is also illustrated by the fact that its per-student spending exceeds that of the Education Ministry itself, with 54 percent of the total public expenditure per student in Tamar funded by the council and just 46 percent coming from the ministry. On average, if you recall, local government comes up with just 14 percent of per-student public spending in total.

In response, Tamar Regional Council offered the following statement: “We are very proud of the resources that we provide toward education and it is no coincidence that our students, including those from the Megilot Regional Council and students at boarding schools, record impressive academic results.”

The bottom nine in terms of per-student investment are all Arab localities, five of which are Bedouin local authorities in the Negev region, while 10th from bottom is the ultra-Orthodox Rechasim Local Council. Of the five local authorities that invest the least in their students, four fall into the lowest-ranked socioeconomic segment (Cluster 1), with just one (Al-Batuf) ranked one level higher.

The bottom nine in terms of per-student investment are all Arab localities, five of which are Bedouin local authorities in the Negev region, while 10th from bottom is the ultra-Orthodox Rechasim Local Council. Of the five local authorities that invest the least in their students, four fall into the lowest-ranked socioeconomic segment (Cluster 1), with just one (Al-Batuf) ranked one level higher. All 14 of the communities in which per-student spending amounts to just 3 percent of the total public expenditure are Arab local authorities. In the ultra-Orthodox localities, even when spending per student is similar to that in the Arab localities, it still constitutes a higher percentage in terms of total public spending because most of the ultra-Orthodox schools are private and therefore receive smaller state budgets.

Like Tamar and Mevo’ot HaHermon, the bottom two in the table are also regional councils with high transportation costs and widely spread students, with the disparity compounded by the fact that they’re Arab regional councils. We were expecting one of the Bedouin regional councils in the Negev, with unrecognized villages in their jurisdiction, to come in last, but that dubious honor surprisingly fell to the Arab regional council, Al-Batuf, in the Galilee, where just a portion of the residents are Bedouin. The council’s average annual per-student investment totals a negative 442 shekels. In other words, each Al-Batuf student gets 442 shekels less than the per-student allocation provided to the council by the Education Ministry. According to CBS data, the Al-Batuf Regional Council, with its 2,300 students, receives 28 million shekels from the Education Ministry but spends only 27 million shekels. Al-Batuf is 17th from the bottom in terms of its socioeconomic ranking among local authorities.

Sitting above Al-Batuf are the Bedouin councils in the Negev, with the Neve Midbar Regional Council, comprising rural Bedouin communities, some recognized and some not, second from the bottom. Neve Midbar invests minus 20 shekels a year in each of its students, or 20 shekels less than what it gets from the Education Ministry – a consequence in all likelihood of a lack of independent sources of revenue. Neve Midbar is at the bottom of the CBS socioeconomic ranking.

Public expenditure per student in Al-Batuf in total, including the Education Ministry budget, totals 24,400 shekels, or a quarter of the sum in Tamar, while the situation in Neve Midbar only slightly better. There, the Education Ministry provides each student with the impressive sum of 47,200 a year – 1,000 shekels more than for each student in Tamar. But because the council itself can’t add to this sum, it serves as the total per-student public expenditure, which is less than half than in neighboring Tamar. In Mevo’ot HaHermon, each student gets 50,000 shekels a year from the Education Ministry, and together with the regional council’s investment, public expenditure per student tops 68,000 shekels.

The Arab regional council that boasts the highest per-student investment is Bustan al-Marj in the Jezreel Valley, with 975 shekels a year, less than 2 percent of the spending in Tamar.

“It’s very sad and surprising to learn that we’re in last place,” says Ahad Rahal, the head of the Al-Batuf Regional Council. “I expected to be much higher up, above localities in the south, and I won’t accept being last. Some families in my communities have sacrificed loved ones fighting for Israel in its wars. Bereaved families don’t deserve to be in last place. I don’t expect to be like Gedera or Hadera, but at least not in last place.”

According to Rahal, “We’re a very weak regional council that’s undergoing a recovery program with a supervising comptroller. The council has no sources of income such as businesses or industry. But education for me is a red line. I won’t keep quiet about this. I’ll be writing to the education minister the moment I receive the precise figures.”

It pays to live in Rosh Pina

Third in the table of localities with the highest expenditure per student, and the first among the local councils, is Rosh Pina, which spends 15,200 shekels a year on each of its 366 students – almost half of public per-student spending in total. One should bear in mind, of course, that even if small student numbers and the need to provide transportation for some of them justify high spending, it’s a luxury that only local authorities with revenue from industrial and commercial property taxes can afford.

The top tier of localities in terms of socioeconomic ranking (Cluster 10) comprises two local councils, Savyon and Kfar Shmaryahu. Savyon spends 8,600 shekels a year per student and is ranked sixth among local councils. Kfar Shmaryahu makes do with 7,700 shekels per student. Above them and in fifth place among local councils is Har Adar, near Jerusalem, with per-student spending of 10,400 shekels a year. For the sake of comparison, average per-student spending by local councils totals 4,050 shekels a year, or less than half the sum invested in Savyon and some 40 percent of the sum spent in Har Adar.

The local council propping up table (and fourth from the bottom among all local authorities) is the Bedouin town of Lakiya in the Negev, with an annual per-student budget of around 450 shekels. The Education Ministry allocates 21,200 shekels a year to each student in Lakiya, which is just 5 percent more than students in Rosh Pina receive. With the addition of the investment made by the local council, however, each student in Rosh Pina gets 63 percent more than students in Lakiya.

Education budgets researcher Nachum Balas from the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel believes that true equality in education exists when students from society’s weaker sectors get 50 percent more than their counterparts from the stronger ones. To achieve essential parity between Rosh Pina and Lakiya, the latter’s budget would have to be increased by almost 150 percent.

Of the 50 local councils that invest the least per student, 46 are Arab. Above Lakiya in the table sit the towns of Hura, Nahf and Jisr az-Zarka, with the ultra-Orthodox Rechasim sixth from the bottom. The ultra-Orthodox settlement, Immanuel, is in 28th place, the settlement of Elkana takes 36th place, and 50th place goes to the settlement of Beit El. In every single one of the localities in the bottom 50, the local council’s per-student investment constitutes less than 10 percent of public expenditure on education in total. In Rosh Pina and Savyon, in contrast, local council spending makes up 43 percent and 40 percent respectively.

The Elyakhin Local Council in the Sharon region created something of an anomaly in terms of Education Ministry figures. Elyakhin ranks second among local councils in terms of per-student spending, with 12,400 shekels invested in each of its students every year. Nevertheless, the Education Ministry provides the council with an average of 84,500 shekels per student, on the grounds that the council ran a regional enrichment center which provided services to all children in the area. Given similar anomalies elsewhere, the ministry argues that “you can’t just take a budget for a local authority and divide it by the number of students.” It’s difficult, in practice, to accept the Education Ministry’s claim that the education budgets transferred to the local authorities should be calculated without taking into account all their various clauses.

Big gaps in the Haifa Bay area

Most of the interest focuses, inevitably, on Israel’s big cities. Surprisingly, Kiryat Bialik in the Haifa Bay area is top of the pile – and sixth overall – when it comes to expenditure per student, with 11,000 shekels a year. With an affluent population and hence a relatively high ranking in terms of socioeconomic status (Cluster 7), Kiryat Bialik’s investment in its students makes up 32 percent of the total public expenditure on education in the city. It turns out, too, that industry and commerce in the Haifa Bay in particular, can also have their benefits, providing welcome revenue for local government.

Kiryat Bialik is a perfect example of how local authorities are creating and exacerbating gaps with their education budgets. Nearby Kiryat Yam (socioeconomic Cluster 5), in comparison, spends just 4,700 shekels per student each year, or less than half the sum invested in Kiryat Bialik, and Kiryat Yam’s share of public expenditure per student is a mere 16 percent. In the nearby Arab city of Shfar’am, per-student spending amounts 1,300 shekels a year, or one-eighth of what a student in Kiryat Bialik receives. The Shfar’am Municipality’s spending per student makes up just 5 percent of public expenditure on education in the city.

Education budgets researcher Nachum Balas from the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel believes that true equality in education exists when students from society’s weaker sectors get 50 percent more than their counterparts from the stronger ones. To achieve essential parity between Rosh Pina and Lakiya, the latter’s budget would have to be increased by almost 150 percent.

Ra’anana lies second in the table of cities (and 10th overall), with annual per-student investment of 9,700 shekels, which constitutes 31 percent of public expenditure in total. Third among the cities is Nesher, also in the Haifa Bay area, with 9,500 shekels per student, followed by Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan.

The city that invests less than any other in education is the Bedouin city of Rahat, which coughs up less than 100 shekels a year per student, less than one percent of the spending in Kiryat Bialik. In third and fourth from the bottom sit two ultra-Orthodox cities, Betar Ilit, with a 765 shekels a year investment per student, and Modi’in Ilit, which spends 780 shekels a year on each of its students. Bedouin and ultra-Orthodox cities, for the most part, mean low revenues from residential property taxes due to their low-income populations. In Betar Ilit, for example, some 80 percent of the residents pay reduced property tax, and because of the abundance of multiple-children families, the municipality’s education budget, limited to begin with, is being shared among a large number of children. In the central city of Lod – which falls into Cluster 3 in terms of socioeconomic status and has significant ultra-Orthodox and Arab populations – average per-student spending totals 2,100 shekels.

Among development towns, those that spend the least per student are the increasingly ultra-Orthodox ones. At the bottom of the table sits Netivot, which spends 1,000 shekels a year per student, or 10 percent of the sum spent by Ra’anana. Above it is Safed, with 1,800 shekels in annual per-student spending, and third from the bottom comes Ma'alot-Tarshiha, a town with significant Arab and immigrant populations that spends 2,200 shekels a year per student. For the sake of comparison, the average investment per student in Jewish localities around the country totals 5,300 shekels – five times that of Netivot and three times that of Safed.

Of all the development towns, Acre is the biggest per-student spender, investing 6,600 shekels a year in each of its schoolgoers, followed closely by Shlomi, with 6,400 shekels. Third place goes to Yokneam, which has climbed meanwhile in terms of its socioeconomic ranking (Cluster 7) and is only on the list of development towns for historical reasons.

Transparently unfair

The Interior Ministry could require the local authorities to pass on their education-investment figures to the Education Ministry but chooses instead to turn a blind eye, thereby allowing the strong localities to hide the large gaps

A government decision in 2013 required local authorities to furnish the public with details of their investment in education – data that would then be published alongside the Education Ministry’s own figures. In the intervening seven years, local authorities have shown no sign that they intend to comply with the directive and, since they are not required by law to do so, their disregard for the order remains unchallenged. The Interior Ministry, which does have the power to compel them, has opted not to exert its authority in this case. As a result, wealthy local authorities are able to hide massive disparities, and perhaps even more importantly for them, to conceal their precise investment in each and every school.

In February 2017, during a Knesset Special Committee meeting on this very issue, a senior Education Ministry official bemoaned the fact that his department “can’t force local authorities to report. To do so, we require a decision by the Interior Ministry.” A senior official from Finance Ministry agreed: “The Interior Ministry has nothing to gain from making the data transparent, so they’re coming up with all sorts of technical excuses. The existing data is indeed partial and insufficient.”

The director of budgeting for local authorities at the Interior Ministry, however, was quick to pass the buck. “We aren’t responsible for the education budgets,” he said. “The Education Ministry needs to come up with the solutions to this problem.”

The head of that Special Committee, Stav Shaffir, explained the importance of implementing the government directive. “Where there’s no transparency, there’s corruption,” she said. “It appears that the Interior Ministry, which is supposed to oversee the budget of the local authorities, doesn’t want to do its job … We mustn’t allow more and more Israeli school-goers to fall victim to gross inequality, to which the government is shamelessly turning a blind eye.”

In 2018, the Interior Ministry told Calcalist that, “in light of the importance of the issue and the ministry's policy to encourage transparency among the local authorities, we’ve set up a joint project with the Education Ministry to encourage the authorities to publish the information.”

Also addressing the Knesset Special Committee in 2017, then-director of the Citizens' Empowerment Center in Israel (CECI), Tomer Lotan, spoke of “the ongoing failure to publish education budgets due to a lack of coordination between government ministries, inter-ministerial shortcomings, poor data management, and an absence of follow-up and supervision.”

The CECI has a project dubbed Monitor, which keeps track of the implementation of government decisions, and according to a 2018 report, “The government’s decision is founded on the assumption that the existence of a transparent and accessible system will facilitate the management of a fairer budget and the conducting of earnest talks on the need for differential budgeting.”

The report explains that, “in keeping with its official position, the Education Ministry is committed to equal opportunities and reducing disparities, by means, inter alia, of affirmative action for students from needy socioeconomic backgrounds. One of the tools for implementing this policy is differential budgeting, but it is very difficult to promote this policy at a time when all of the data is not in the hands of the ministry (including the figures from the local authorities) and isn’t transparent to the public.”

The report notes that “a series of meetings has taken place between the ministries involved, the Education, Finance and Interior ministries, together with local government officials, but these discussions don’t appear to have borne any fruit.” The CECI also claims that “many undoubtedly have lots to lose from a policy under which the education budgets that the local authorities transfer to their educational institutions are open and transparent to the public. As things stand today, with the transparent publication only of the Education Ministry’s budgets, without the significant additional budgets from the local authorities, it’s impossible to promote and conduct a genuine and constructive public discussion centered on a fairer distribution of resources between the periphery and the center.”

According to the Education Ministry, “As part of its transparency policy, the ministry makes a large set of data accessible to the public, including the ministry’s budgetary figures on a national, local authority and school level. The regulator responsible for the transparency of local government spending on education is the Interior Ministry. If the Education Ministry receives the figures, it will publish them.”

“The Education Ministry is responsible for the budgeting of the local authorities and regulatory oversight in the field,” responded the Interior Ministry. “In 2018-2019, in an effort to assist it, a voluntary framework for the transfer of the data was initiated.”

“The local government’s budget is submitted to the authority’s council every year, including an outline in full of the education section,” said a statement from the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel. “The budget is open to the public and audited by external parties.”

We did the math the authorities won’t do

How we translated freely accessible data from two separate government sources into a grim picture of widening inequality

This project was based on the assumption that all the data needed to untangle the education budgets on a local level is readily available to the public. The first goal was to calculate each authority’s independent spending on education. To this end, we took data from the Central Bureau of Statistics’ Local Authorities file that pertains to each authority’s income for educational purposes and subtracted the authority’s independent income, assuming it would leave us with a sum denoting income from the Education Ministry. We then subtracted this figure from the authority’s expenses in terms of education to arrive at a sum that shows the authority’s investment in education from its own sources. All the data comes from the CBS’s 2018 file, the last to be published.

The Education Ministry invests significant sums that aren’t channeled through local government. These cover, among other items, salaries for elementary and middle school teachers, as well as funding for operators of schooling networks. As a result, the CBS data on the monies provided by the Education Ministry to each local authority for educational purposes doesn’t reflect the ministry's total investment in education in the said authority’s jurisdiction. To access this information, we used the Education Ministry’s Transparency in Education website, and from there, we took the overall total transferred by the ministry to each local authority. By combining spending on education by each local authority from its own sources with the investment from the Education Ministry in each jurisdiction, we arrived at a third figure – total public expenditure on education in each local authority.

We then went on to divide these three sums by the number of students in each locality and arrived at the figure that is at the heart of this project, based on three key pieces of information figures: The average expenditure per student by each local authority from independent sources, the average expenditure per student in the local authority on the part of the Education Ministry, and public expenditure per student in total in each local authority – a combination, in essence, of the first two numbers.

The basic premise was that data from the Education Ministry would reveal affirmative action in favor of the weaker localities. In practice, however, we found the very opposite in terms of these budgets too. There is evidence of an effort to reduce gaps, but with limited results. It turns out that middle-class localities are getting higher per-student budgets from the Education Ministry than the lower-class localities. We calculated spending per student in all of the 10 socioeconomic clusters of local authorities. Not only is independent spending by strong local authorities nullifying the effects of budgets to reduce the gaps, it is widening them.

We examined each local authority’s share in terms of public spending on education in total and revealed an incredible disparity between localities in which investment in education by local government is actually negative, and the Tamar Regional Council, where public expenditure on education comes to around 100,000 shekels a year per student, with the council’s share constituting more than half. Tamar, in other words, can afford to spend 54,000 shekels a year on each of its students. In light of the different expenses faced by the different types of localities, we conducted a separate examination of the situation in regional councils, local councils, cities and big cities (100,000+ residents). We also looked at the differences between development towns and other localities, between Arab and Jewish communities, and between settlements and localities inside the Green Line.

These calculations have their shortcomings. The Education Ministry, for example, believes that each level of education should be calculated separately and that the per-student calculations shouldn’t include education costs that aren’t transferred to the schools. In practice, it certainly would be worthwhile to calculate all the spending by the local authority, and there are no figures for each locality’s spending according to level of education. As long as the government fails to provide the data, the calculations in this current analysis are the only ones available to the public.