Municipal Involvement in the Financing of Teacher’s Working Hours in the Education System

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A new study by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel shows that only 4% of total working hours of teachers are funded by the municipalities. Municipalities with socioeconomically stronger populations fund more working hours within the schools in their districts relative to municipalities located in weaker socioeconomic areas, which reduces the effectiveness of the affirmative action policies of the Ministry of Education. At the same time, however, municipalities allocate more resources to schools within their districts that have weaker socioeconomic profiles – an action that strengthens affirmative action efforts. The overall effect is that municipal allocation of working hours served to slightly reduce the effect of affirmative action efforts by the Ministry of Education.

Study findings:

  • Municipalities fund an average of 2 working hours for teachers per week per class, which is less than 4% of the total hours.
  • Socioeconomically stronger municipalities are able to allocate greater resources to their pupils; although they also enact affirmative action within their districts by allocating more to pupil populations from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • The Ministry of Education’s affirmative action initiatives result in an allocation of 32% more hours to socioeconomically weaker populations. The effect of municipality financing, however, counteracts these efforts, resulting in only 27% more hours being allocated to weaker pupil populations.

A new 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, examines the extent of resources allocated by municipalities to the education system. The research examined the hypothesis that differences in the level of municipality funding of education counteract the Ministry of Education’s policies of affirmative action. The analysis is based on data collected within the framework of the audit of working hours allocated to schools report, a study that is conducted for the Ministry of Education nearly every year in primary and lower secondary schools. The analysis focuses on official primary schools in the state (Jewish, non-religious) education system in the school years 2000-2001 through 2008-2009.

Investing in pupils. Who is responsible?

Funding of education in Israel is divided between central government, municipalities, households, and additional agents such as non-profit educational organizations. This phenomenon arouses wide public debate. One of the claims is that stronger municipalities allocate greater resources to education within their districts than weaker municipalities, and in this way, they reduce the effect of affirmative action policies of the central government. According to the research findings, from the years 2000-2001 to 2008-2009, municipalities funded on average about 2 weekly working hours per class in the primary school state (Jewish, non-religious) education – which is less than 4% of the total hours, and close to one-third of the hours that are allocated from sources other than the Ministry of Education.

Stronger municipalities fund more working hours of teachers.

There is a positive correlation between the socioeconomic ranking of municipalities and their investment in primary state education. For each increase of 1,000 shekels in the average income that a municipality receives from its residents, there is an average increase of 0.4 working hours per class. At the same time, an increase of just 1% in the municipal debt per resident (partial debt divided by the number of residents) leads to a decrease of about 0.36 working hours.

The Taub Center study shows clearly that more affluent municipalities allocate more hours from their own resources than those municipalities with an intermediate or low socioeconomic ranking. These differences are also considerable when schools with the same socioeconomic ranking in municipalities with different rankings are compared. For example, a school with pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds that is within an affluent municipality benefits from a greater allocation of working hours than a school with pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds within a municipality with a low socioeconomic ranking.

A similar picture is reflected in an examination of the relative share of working hours that are funded by municipalities – more affluent municipalities fund about 10% of the working hours as opposed to 2% in weaker municipalities.

Affirmative Action?

Stronger municipalities – and especially the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality – allocated more manpower working resources to primary schools than did weaker municipalities. Despite this, the negative effect of municipal funding on affirmative action was minor, because municipalities themselves also took affirmative action steps within their districts. On average, classes in schools with pupils from lower socioeconomic backgrounds received 2-3 weekly hours more than classes in schools with pupils from high socioeconomic backgrounds within the same municipality.

Nonetheless, the research notes 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 where the pupils come from the intermediate socioeconomic cluster than to those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, while the Ministry of Education allocates an additional 8 hours for such pupils.

According to Blass, Zussman and Tsur, municipalities’ policies on the allocation of working hours reduced the scope of the Ministry of Education’s affirmative action efforts (as measured by working hours of teachers allocated to pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds as opposed to those from high backgrounds). During the period examined, the number of hours allocated by the Ministry of Education for pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds was 32% higher than the number of hours allocated to pupils from high backgrounds and, after taking into account the hours financed by local authorities, the gap decreased to 27%.

Similar to the funding of working hours, the issue of affirmative action within the municipalities is also positively correlated with socioeconomic ranking. More affluent municipalities have policies of affirmative action, while those ranked in the middle often have little or poorly defined policies.

Non-profits narrow the gaps, but parents widen them

During the period under study, the number of weekly work hours per class in state (Jewish, non-religious) education funded by a source other than the Ministry of Education is about 6 hours, which is about 11% of the total weekly working hours. From 2000-2001 to 2008-2009, various non-profit organizations funded an average of 3.3 weekly hours per class, parents funded about 0.9 hours, and the rest was funded by municipalities.

In the words of the researchers, “when it comes to affirmative action, the impact of non-profit funding for the allocation of working hours is in the opposite direction of parental funding. 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 is of greater socioeconomic means.”

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The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel is an independent, non-partisan institution for socioeconomic research based in Jerusalem. The Center provides decision makers, as well as the public in general, with a big picture perspective on economic and social areas. The Center’s interdisciplinary Policy Programs – comprising leading academic and policy making experts – as well as the Center’s professional staff conduct research and provide policy recommendations in the key socioeconomic issues confronting the State.

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