Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Kislev 5765 - November 24, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Oops! The CBS Goofed: Chareidi Schools Do Not Get Twice as Much Money!
Admission refutes three months of vicious criticism. Teachers' salaries were included in the chareidi school numbers but not in the other schools' budget figures.

By Betzalel Kahn and M Plaut

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 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 CBS.

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 added.

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.


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