The Government Statistician Prof. Shlomo Yitzchaki admitted
that the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) released
incorrect data regarding the chareidi education budget. In a
letter to Degel HaTorah Secretary MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni he
admitted that the funding figures for the chareidi
institutions were very high because they included teacher
salaries, while salaries were not included in the general
education system figures.
The Central Bureau for Statistics figures released on 3
August of this year (freely available at
www.cbs.gov.il/hodaot2004/06_04_205.pdf) a press release
discussing a new report entitled, "Resources in Education
5761" (in Hebrew). The survey was conducted by the Ministry
of Education, Culture and Sport, but was processed by the
Yediot Achronot economics commentator, Gidon Eshet,
wrote a detailed article based on the press release, claiming
that the chareidi education system receives preferential
treatment. Based on the CBS figures, Eshet reported that
students at chareidi elementary schools received eight times
the funding of students at government schools and that
chareidi high-school level institutions received 770 percent
more money per student than government high schools.
The CBS said that the average budget per student in chareidi
education overall (in 5761 which was the year studied) was
NIS 6,880 per student in chareidi institutions, compared to
NIS 3,372 per student at government schools—a huge gap.
Arab students were budgeted at NIS 852 and the state
religious schools had a budget of NIS 2,797 per student.
Chareidi students received NIS 1,800 per year, compared to
NIS 534 for than secular students, NIS 486 for government-
religious schools and NIS 433 for Arab schools.
According to the CBS, the chareidi institutions were better
funded across in the board by hundreds of percent, whether
from public or private sources. At the high-school level, for
example the combined funding from public (government) sources
came to NIS 2,912 at government schools and NIS 3,539 at
government-religious schools. Chareidi schools supposedly
received and eye-popping NIS 8,347 per student and Arab
schools just NIS 733.
"Some claim the favoritism toward chareidi schools is
justified," wrote Eshet in his commentary on the government
figures. "In their Chinuch Atzmai they do not receive
government assistance for the construction of schools, for
example. [But] this claim is inaccurate because during some
years this form of assistance was provided as well. Even
assuming it is correct it could be said in this area they are
discriminated against, elsewhere they are favored, and in sum
there is equality. This is a bizarre claim. The chareidim
demanded and received the right not to be subject to the
State in every matter related to curriculum and pedagogy.
They demanded independence from the State and now it has come
to light than they are also receiving a lot of money."
To anyone who is familiar even superficially with classroom
conditions in the respective systems the figures were
suspect. In chareidi girls high schools, individual classes
have 40-50 students, and many schools lack elementary
facilities such as laboratories and teachers' rooms. Yet even
the newspapers staff experts on chareidim did not question
the figures but used them to show how the chareidim are
raking in money. The figures were cited again and again by
government officials and politicians to show how well the
chareidi students live off the Israeli taxpayer.
Following the release of the school survey figures, MK Rabbi
Gafni pointed out to Prof. Yitzchaki that the survey was
fundamentally flawed since the salaries for teachers at
government schools are paid by the local authorities directly
to the teachers, while in chareidi schools they are paid
through the Chinuch Atzmai or through the schools themselves.
The study included monies received by the schools and
therefore left out the salaries that were paid directly to
the teachers and not via the schools, and included salaries
paid through the schools. When the figures are adjusted to
reflect the teachers' salaries in both cases, funding for
chareidi schools lags behind.
Rabbi Gafni asked the Central Bureau for Statistics to
publish a statement of clarification and an apology, saying
that in his discussions with Finance Ministry officials over
next year's budget he is forced to contend with false claims
of preferential treatment for the chareidi sector based on
the Central Bureau for Statistics school survey. Furthermore,
Rabbi Gafni argued, the media and certain political figures
have been taking advantage of the erroneous statistics to
criticize the chareidi education system.
Though the Government Statistician refused Rabbi Gafni's
request, he did conduct a thorough inquiry, eventually
acknowledging privately an injustice had been done by
presenting flawed figures.
In a letter sent to Rabbi Gafni this week, Prof. Yitzchaki
writes, "Due to the different manner in which the school
expenses are budgeted, it is possible that at some of the
`recognized but unofficial' institutions, teachers' salaries
were reported in the survey questionnaire whereas in the
official school system teachers' salaries are not included.
As such the comparison between the institutions is not
meaningful, and for this we apologize."
Prof. Yitzchaki added that the Central Bureau for Statistics
is looking into the possibility of updating the figures to
make comparisons between the various sectors possible, "but
the statistics may be skewed as a result of the low response
rate to the survey questionnaires in the chareidi sector," he
The incident is reminiscent of a "study" that was published
by the chareidi expert of Ha'aretz who claimed that
the "average" chareidi family receives NIS 17,000 a month
from government sources. Yated published a detailed
analysis of the flaws and distortions of the study. The most
obvious error was that the reporter doubled the figures he
arrived at for the family's income (themselves very atypical
and if applied to a similar non-chareidi family would give a
higher figure) by figuring that the family "saved" the taxes
that they did not pay on their phantom income — but he
them counted that savings as an income!
Nonetheless, those ridiculous figures served as the basis for
a book he wrote and they were cited again and again in
attacking "parasitic" chareidim.
The rebuttal published in Yated was not much noticed,
and even the chareidi head of the Israeli branch of Am Echad
was not aware of them.