Free public education? Not really – Israeli households spent 26.5 billion shekels ($7.5 billion at current exchange rates) in 2018 covering school-related costs, a 15% increase over 2017 and equal to nearly 24% of the government’s spending on education.
The figure – which was released by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday, less than two weeks before the next school year – covers a wide range of expenses including school books and other supplies, after-school groups, private lessons and university tuition.
The Education Ministry has actually sought to reduce out-of-pocket expenses for families in recent years. Besides subsidized preschool, it has introduced subsidized after-school and summer programs and launched a program where families borrow textbooks instead of buying them.
Still, it appears that the authorization the Education Ministry gives schools to collect money for enrichment classes and other programs has more than outweighed the savings. Three years ago, the ministry vowed to create a timetable for reducing the fees, but it hasn’t yet done so and the authorized fees haven’t gone down.
The stats bureau found that the average family spends 562 shekels a month on education, including private lessons, school fees, cram courses for the high school matriculation exams and school supplies. But the top 20% of income earners spent an average of 1,119 shekels a month, more than four times the 277 shekels of families in the bottom 20%.
The bureau said the spending gap was exacerbated by the fact that whatever money lower-income families were spending was going to mandatory school fees, rather than private lessons and other services that might give their children a leg up. The top 20% of income earners spent 682 shekels on average a month on extras, versus 76 shekels by the bottom 20%.
Read more at Haaretz.