Class size reduction costs could reach NIS9.3b, Taub Center study finds

Reducing all school classes to no more than 32 pupils could cost from NIS 5.7 billion to NIS 9.3b., a new study by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel released Sunday has found. Most of the cost would be one-time expenses for building new classrooms and training new teachers, but about NIS 2b. per year would have to be added to the budget, the study determined. The government has estimated the total cost at NIS 2b. According to the report, written by Nachum Blass, an additional 7,500 classrooms and another 17,000 teachers would be needed to effect the change. The government committed to reducing class size as part of its agreement late last year with the Secondary School Teachers Organization to end the longest-running school strike in Israeli history. Currently, 10,700 out of 46,200 classrooms in the country have fewer than 32 pupils, the report noted. Reducing class size would be beneficial in the long term by enabling more individualized attention and raising academic levels, Blass found. He suggested, however, spreading the shift out over eight years and beginning in the nation's periphery, especially among the Beduin and Druse. He also warned about the danger of reducing the overall quality of teachers with an influx of so many new ones. The report broke down estimated costs by school level and by one-time expenses versus additions to the annual budget. In elementary schools, NIS 904 million would be needed on a yearly basis and between NIS 1.8-3.5b. to build new classrooms and train new teachers. In middle schools, NIS 646m. would be needed annually and NIS 1-1.9b. on a one-time basis. In high schools, NIS 564m. would be needed annually and NIS 847m. to NIS 1.7 billion on a one-time basis. Dissecting the above costs even further, building 5,800 new elementary and middle school classrooms would cost NIS 2.95b., and another 1,650 high school classrooms would cost NIS 830m., for a total of NIS 3.8b, the report found. Training 8,000 new elementary school teachers, 5,000 middle school ones and 4,000 high school teachers would cost NIS 3.4b. The calculation was based on a training cost of NIS 200,000 per teacher. Education Ministry Director-General Shlomit Amichai said the disparity in the report's cost assessment and that of the government was due to the fact that the ministry had not included the cost of building new classrooms in its estimate, according to Israel Radio. Education Minister Yuli Tamir also told Israel Radio Monday that the study was superfluous because class-size reductions would take place mainly in the periphery and in weaker schools. Tamir added that there would be no need to hire new teachers because the ministry would use those who were only working part-time.