How state and private schools in France are funded

How are schools funded in France? Is a portion of local property taxes spent on the local schools or are they fully funded by central government? G.K.

30 October 2019
By Oliver Rowland

Funding of schools partly depends on which level of school you are talking about, but the answer at all levels is that it is partly local authority and partly national.

When it comes to local authorities, there is funding at primary level from the commune (mairie), departmental council at collège (first stage of secondary school) and regional council at lycée (similar to sixth-form in the UK). Part of your taxe d’habitation goes towards funding local primary schools and part of the taxe foncière goes towards collèges.

No local property tax is collected by regional councils. Their funding includes part of professional taxes on businesses, central state grants and some other taxes, such as some money from cartes grises.

Local councils are responsible for building, maintenance and general running of schools, including salaries of non-teaching staff. Central government pays teachers’ salaries.

Other funding may come from parents for certain non-obligatory activities, such as trips outside school time or from a coopérative scolaire.

The latter exists in many schools and consists of an association of the pupils, supported by their parents, which allows for fundraising activities to help pay for school trips or improvements, such as better sports or educational materials. Its funding is from its own fundraisers and from other sources such as gifts.

A contribution from parents is a more significant element in private schools, but in most of them it is low due to the fact that teachers are still state-paid and there is still a local authority contribution, as long as the school follows the national curriculum.

Fees are higher in hors contrat schools, such as international schools, which do not follow the usual state curriculum.

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