The Ministry of Education has two overarching goals that often stand in opposition to one another – narrowing education gaps and encouraging public education. The first goal it realizes through differential budgeting that takes into consideration students’ socioeconomic background. The second it achieves through preferential budgeting of Official (public) education over Recognized but unofficial schools (with private education characteristics).
Thus, for example, narrowing budget gaps between Recognized (but unofficial) and Official education – where the Recognized schools are characterized by students from weaker socioeconomic backgrounds – is a form of affirmative action (supporting the first goal), yet weakens the advantage to public education (detracting from the second goal).
Keeping these goals in mind, the study evaluates changes in primary school budgeting between 2014 and 2018.
The primary school education system: characteristics and budgeting
In this study primary school students are divided into three educational frameworks that are distinguished by their legal status: Official education (74% of students), Recognized (but unofficial) education which includes Exempt schools (13%), and two Haredi Network schools (13%). Official education in Israel includes Hebrew State and State-religious schools, and Arab State education which includes Arab, Druze, and Bedouin schools. The study shows that characteristics vary across these educational frameworks.
- In Official education, about 70% of students in Hebrew State education belong to the two highest socioeconomic quintiles, compared to about 61% in Hebrew State-religious schools and almost no students in Official Arab education.
- Although there are only a few Hebrew State and State-religious schools in the Recognized (but unofficial) system, their students belong to the higher socioeconomic status quintiles. Similarly, while only a negligible number of students attending schools the Official Arab education system are in the two highest socioeconomic quintiles, 22% of the students in the Recognized Arab education system are in the second Nurture quintile (higher socioeconomic status).
- All Druze students and almost all students from the Bedouin sector in Official education benefit from a State-financed extended school day, compared to 26% of students in Arab State schools, 15% in Hebrew State schools, 32% in Hebrew State-religious, and 27% of those in Official Haredi schools. Students in the Recognized (but unofficial) education system are not eligible for a long school day financed by the Ministry of Education (they may have a long school day, but do not receive a budget for it from the Ministry of Education).
- More than 85% of Arab educational institutions in Official education have special education classes, versus 63% of Hebrew State and 56% of Hebrew State-religious schools. In the Recognized (but unofficial) schools, there are almost no special education classes.
The study finds that, in general, the overall budget increases as the socioeconomic level of the institution declines (that is, as the Nurture Index rises), yet there are differences between the education frameworks.
- The average expenditure per class and per student in Official education is considerably higher than that in Recognized (but unofficial) education.
- Within Official education, the average expenditure is considerably higher in the Druze and Bedouin sectors, and lowest in the Hebrew State sector.
- In a comparison by socioeconomic background quintiles, the study finds that Hebrew State-religious education is budgeted at almost the highest level regardless of quintile, and Arab education at the lowest levels.
Changes in primary school education between 2014-2018
The distribution of students by sector, supervisory authority, and legal status in primary education in 2018 was not significantly different from that in 2014, although there were some changes. In addition, there were changes in class size during this period, which has significant implications for allocation per class and per student.
- The share of students in Hebrew State education (Official and Recognized but unofficial) grew by 1 percentage point, while the share in State-religious and Haredi Network schools grew by a little less than one percentage point each.
- The share of students in Arab education decreased by 2.5 percentage points.
- In general, class sizes in primary schools declined by 0.6 students per class, although changes were not uniform throughout the system.
- The majority of those benefiting from decreasing class size were students from stronger socioeconomic backgrounds.
- In Hebrew State and State-religious education, in those schools serving weaker populations, classes actually increased in size, while in Arab education, classes decreased in size over all socioeconomic levels.
Differential budgeting policy
The study analyzes changes in budgeting inequality between 2014 and 2018 both between and within different educational frameworks. At the start of the period, there was already preferential budgeting for students from weak socioeconomic backgrounds. An increase in budgeting inequality implies that the growth in budget per class and per student over time among students with weak socioeconomic backgrounds is higher than for students with strong socioeconomic backgrounds. That is, an increase in budgeting inequality, in essence, further strengthens affirmative action.
- There is evidence of a drop in the level of budgeting inequality in the primary education system as a whole (across all three educational frameworks), as can be viewed by the “total inequality” in the graph below. However, this finding should be treated with caution.
- The component of inequality between the three systems is significantly higher than that within education systems (purple vs. yellow bars in the graph). This reflects significant differences in average budgeting levels between the systems.
- The inequality between the three education systems (purple bars in the graph) has declined substantially. This is largely due to the fact that in Recognized (but unofficial) education, where expenditure was lower to begin with, there was a large increase of 23% in both the per student and per class budget, while the budget per class in Official education grew by 7% and per student by 11%. This trend strengthens affirmative action but weakens the advantage of public education.
- Budgeting inequality within the educational frameworks (yellow bars in the graph) has increased. There was a rise in inequality in budgeting both within Official and within Recognized (but unofficial) education, such that the increase in budgets for students from weaker backgrounds was greater than for stronger students.
- Within Official education, there was a rise in inequality in budgeting – and thus a strengthening of affirmative action in favor of students from weaker socioeconomic backgrounds – in all three frameworks (Hebrew State, Hebrew State-religious, and Arab State education), but at different rates.