Affirmative action at work: education funding from municipalities and the Ministry of Education
Author: Taub Center Staff Bulletin Articles

Funding for education in Israel comes from multiple sources. While most funding is from the Ministry of Education, which has implemented clear affirmative action policies, the way funds are allocated by other entities can strengthen or weaken the effectiveness of the national government’s affirmative action efforts.

Funding of education in Israel is divided between the central government, municipalities, households, and non-profit educational organizations. While the bulk of funding comes from the national Ministry of Education, which prioritizes – at least declaratively –  affirmative action measures, funding from other sources sometimes contributes to and sometimes counters the affirmative action efforts of the Ministry.

A recent study, conducted by Taub Center Principal Researcher Nachum Blass, and by Noam Zussman and Shay Tsur from the Research Department at the Bank of Israel, explores the effect of municipal funding on affirmative action efforts by taking a closer look at funding for state (Jewish, non-religious) primary school education from the 2000-2001 school year through 2008-2009. The study measures funding from the municipality, the Ministry of Education, and other sources by comparing the number of weekly teacher working hours funded by each source.[1]

Between 2000-2001 and 2008-2009, only about 11% of the total weekly teacher working hours in Israel were funded by a source other than the Ministry of Education. Of this 11%, or 6 weekly hours, non-profit organizations funded an average of 3.3 weekly hours per class, parents funded about 0.9 hours, and local municipalities funded about 2 hours.

Even though these other entities contribute a small amount of funding when compared with the Ministry of Education, the fact that funding comes from so many different sources can complicate the effect of the Ministry’s affirmative action policy.

When the funding by the Ministry of Education is isolated, as shown in the graph below, the Ministry’s efforts to implement affirmative action are quite apparent, both in wealthier and less wealthy municipalities. Within municipalities that fall into the mid-range or lower socioeconomic profile, the Ministry of Education allocates more money to schools with pupils of low socioeconomic backgrounds than to schools with pupils of mid-range socioeconomic backgrounds and, likewise, allocates more funding for schools with a mid-range socioeconomic ranking than for those with a high socioeconomic ranking.

Even in wealthier municipalities, in which there may be no schools that would be characterized as having a low socioeconomic ranking, the Ministry of Education provides more funding for the schools with a mid-range socioeconomic ranking than to those with a high socioeconomic ranking.

The graph also shows that the Ministry of Education allocates roughly the same amount of funding to schools with a mid-range socioeconomic ranking, regardless of whether they are located in less wealthy or wealthier municipalities. Similarly, the Ministry allocates roughly the same funding to schools of a high socioeconomic ranking, regardless of the municipality’s socioeconomic status.

Ministry of Education

In differentiating between funding from the Ministry of Education and the budget allocated by municipalities (as shown in the chart below), it is clear that municipality funding for education has two major effects on affirmative action.

On the one hand, municipalities with a high socioeconomic profile allocate much more funding to education than municipalities with a middle or lower socioeconomic profile. In fact, while the country-wide average for municipality funding is 4% of total working hours, the more affluent municipalities fund about 10% of working hours as opposed to 2% in weaker municipalities. When stronger municipalities allocate greater resources to education within their districts than weaker municipalities, it reduces the effect of the affirmative action policies of the central government.


On the other hand, the above graph also shows that wealthier municipalities themselves also take affirmative action steps within their districts, with municipalities investing more in schools with a mid-range rather than a high socioeconomic ranking. Nonetheless, the researchers find that the affirmative action implemented by the municipalities is less extensive than that of the Ministry of Education. For example, stronger municipalities allocate an average of 4 more weekly working hours to classes in schools with pupils from mid-range socioeconomic backgrounds than to those with pupils from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, while the Ministry of Education allocates an additional 8 hours for such schools.

Furthermore, the study shows that other sources of funding, non-profits and parents of pupils, have an opposite effect from one another on affirmative action policies, as seen in the graphs below.  While non-profits take a clear stand on affirmative action – favoring weaker populations – the financial contribution of parents is mostly seen in schools where the population has greater financial means.

Nonprofit and parental

The study assesses the effect of the various funding sources on the extent of affirmative action in the education system.  If only Ministry of Education funding is taken into account, pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds would be allocated 32% more funding than pupils from high socioeconomic backgrounds. After taking into account the funding from municipalities, without considering non-profit or parental funding, the extent of affirmative action is reduced from 32% to 27%. Taking into account the net effect of funding from all sources, the net advantage for pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds is 29%.  Overall, the study concludes that education funding from municipalities and other sources lessens the effect of national affirmative action policies, but only to a small degree.


[1] Weekly teaching hours comprise between 75% to 80% of the total budget allocated to elementary schools in Israel.

People who read this were also interested in: