Country information for Germany - Financing of inclusive education systems

The financing of education from the public purse is currently based on the following arrangements: 

  • Most educational institutions are maintained by public authorities. They receive most of their funds from public budgets. 
  • Certain groups undergoing training receive financial assistance from the state to provide them with the money they need to live and study. 
  • The public financing arrangements for the education system are the result of decision-making processes in the political and administrative system. The various forms of public spending on education are apportioned between Federation, Länder and Kommunen (local authorities), according to education policy and objective requirements.

The political and administrative hierarchy in the Federal Republic of Germany is made up of three levels: 

1) Federation, i.e. districts 

2) Länder, i.e. municipalities with the status of districts 

3) local authorities (Kommunen), i.e. municipalities forming part of districts. 

The basic framework for financing and funding is the yearly education budget of the Federation, the Länderand the local authorities in Germany. Details of the methods of financing education – for example, teaching aids, pupil transport – differ from Land to Land.

The agencies responsible for financing are government, districts (rural districts and municipalities with the status of a district) and communes (Kommunen). Decisions on the funding of education are taken at all three levels, but the Länder and the local authorities provide over 90% of the funds.

The Länder finance staff costs of teachers (salary, etc.). Teachers are employees of the Länder, except in private schools. As a rule, the local authorities – specifically, the maintaining bodies (Schulträger) – finance non-teaching staff (without the qualification of a teacher), such as social workers, nurses, ‘inclusion helpers’ and support staff. Local authorities are responsible for funding the material costs and the non-teaching staff payroll.

Each Land has its own arrangements regarding transport to and from school. Generally, the districts, municipalities with the status of a district (Länder) and, in some cases, the individual Kommunen are responsible for ensuring adequate provision for transporting pupils to and from school. Maintaining bodies (usually the local authority) fund school transport. In most cases, the Land in question grants subsidies.

The maintaining bodies of private schools receive some financial support from the Länder, in various forms. All the Länder guarantee standard financial support to schools entitled to such assistance; this includes contributions to the standard staff and running costs.

The funding mechanism for special needs and inclusive education is the same as for mainstream education, with additional measures and resources that take into account developments and changes towards more inclusive schooling in the different Länder.

The school maintaining bodies and/or the Social and Welfare Office share responsibility for funding over and above normal education funding, for additional needs (technical aids, transport, school attendants, architectural modifications for better access, etc.). The questions considered in the decision-making process are:

  • What measures would be best for the pupil?
  • Which type of school is required?
  • How suitable are the conditions relating to personal support/assistance, organisation of the school, etc.?
  • What would benefit/enhance the pupil’s performance?
  • What conditions are necessary to obtain access?
  • Does the pupil need extra materials?
  • What other financial considerations concerning facilities need to be taken into account?
  • What is required to enhance each pupil’s performance?
  • What level of intensity of special education does the pupil require?

Within the measures for the inclusion of people with disabilities in Social Code XII (Sozialgesetzbuch XII – Sozialhilfe), pupils with special educational needs (SEN) receive financial assistance to help obtain an adequate school education. This is especially with regard to the period of compulsory schooling and attendance in mainstream secondary education.

In some cases, there is mixed funding between Social Codes IX (Children and Adults Welfare, §35A) and XII. There are also regional differences in decision-making concerning funding in the Länder. The allocation of the conditions and funds and decisions about the type of support for specific pupils is handled differently in the Länder. In some Länder, co‑ordinating support committees (Förderausschuss) consult and make a proposal. This proposal is the basis for the school administration’s decision, taking into account the school laws and the recommendations of each Land.

Early years education is not part of the public school system and kindergarten attendance is generally not free of charge. Institutions providing pre-primary education are funded by public and non-public bodies (local authorities, church, etc.). As a rule, organising bodies from both the voluntary sector and public child and youth welfare services receive financial support from the Länder for kindergartens’ material and staffing costs. In addition, parental contributions are levied to help cover costs; this depends on parents’ financial circumstances.

The Federal Training Assistance Act (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz) allows financial support from the state for pupils who have no other means of maintenance and of financing their training (mainly from their parents’ income). The support is for pupils in mainstream and vocational secondary schools from grade 10 onwards. It comes in the form of a grant. Financial support is also available from the Office of Employment.

‘The Education System in the Federal Republic of Germany 2016/17 – A description of the responsibilities, structures and developments in education policy for the exchange of information in Europe’ is a reference source. 

‘The Education System in the Federal Republic of Germany 2016/2017 – Funding’ contains information about funding. 


Last updated 05/02/2020


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