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Citizens not pacified by revelation that schools get to keep the parking fees from teachers

In a written response on 9 July to a Parliamentary question filed by Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera regarding the estimated annual revenue derived from the imposition of parking fees for teachers in schools and junior colleges (JCs), Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung stated that the figures may range from S$8 million to S$10 million, according to Channel NewsAsia.

He added that the revenue generated will be retained by the schools.

Earlier in March, the Ministry of Education (MOE) confirmed that starting August, teachers will have to pay monthly season parking rates in order to be allowed to park their cars or motorcycles in schools and JCs.

During term time, the monthly season parking rate for cars is S$75 for an uncovered lot, and S$100 for a sheltered lot.

Meanwhile, the rate is lowered to S$15 and S$20 for an uncovered lot and sheltered lot respectively during school holidays.

The annual rate for parking in an uncovered lot is S$720, while that for a sheltered lot is S$960.

For motorcycles, the monthly season parking rate during term time is S$13 for an uncovered lot, and S$14 for a sheltered lot. 

During the school holidays, the rates for uncovered and sheltered motorcycle lots are S$2 and S$3 respectively. 

Annual parking rates for motorcycles are S$123 for uncovered lots and S$135 for sheltered lots. 

Previously in 2016, the MOE announced that it was reviewing the car park policy for schools.

The announcement was made in light of the Audit-General's Office (AGO) 2014/2015 Financial Year report noted that the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), Singapore Polytechnic, and Temasek Polytechnic either did not impose charges, or charged parking rates that were below the market rate.

"Such practices are tantamount to providing hidden subsidies for vehicle parking and are not in line with the requirements laid down in the Government Instruction Manuals," the AGO had said, according to Channel NewsAsia.

Since then, the MOE added, the Ministry had been collaborating with the Public Service Division and Ministry of Finance "to determine an appropriate treatment for staff parking in schools". 

Several MPs have addressed the issue in the past few months.

In a Facebook post, the Workers’ Party’s Pritam Singh had said that he is against charging teachers for parking fees.

Mr Singh stated that “some public sector professions and services - and I count teachers among them - must always be seen in an elected government's eye through a lens that recognises their direct and indirect contributions to nation-building".  

In a speech made during a debate on the President’s Address in May, MP for Marine Parade GRC Seah Kian Peng said that the decision was an "insult" to teachers who have invested their own resources for the benefit of their students. 

"Not all government policy has a complete recourse to dollars and cents. 

We need within our current structures to make more room for the lexicon of morality, duty, relationships and trust," he said in the speech, which has been shared widely online.

This prompted Mr Ong to respond to the comments circulating around the issue not long after that.

In a Facebook post only a few days later, he defended the MOE’s announcement, stating that charging parking fees at schools lies in the aim to inculcate the value of self-discipline amongst staff.

"We have to respect our internal system of checks and balances,” he wrote. 

 “We cannot pick and choose which finding to address or comply with – we take them all seriously. This is about upholding the value of self-discipline.”

Local netizens’ are aghast by Mr Ong’s statements and the MOE’s decision overall.

Shahirul Sudirman voiced his concern regarding the parking rates for school teachers:

I remember my Form teacher who drove to school everyday went on a further step to print extra learning notes for us, using her own pocket money to photocopy and getting us small gifts for Children’s Day etc.. I don’t know whether this would continue for the further batches of students under her... I’m against this parking charges idea.

Md Riza protested against the impending parking charges:

Don’t make teacher susah [inconvenienced] la. Just let them park free sudah [enough] la.

They already put in so much teaching our young ones.

Come on la Government!!!!

Brendan Teo Jun Jie retorted with several queries to the Minister of Education:

Ong Ye Kung, how about the loss of revenue where you and your MP comrades pay $365 a year for unlimited parking at all our HDB and URA parking spaces? Where is your self discipline? And Lawrence Wong, aren't we subsidising your parking? What happened to car lite and all that poop? You raised parking cos you said you didn't want non-drivers to subsidise those who do, right?

Chitra Shamdasani pointed out the unfairness of the implementation of parking rates for school teachers who are already burdened with their workload and small salary:

Teachers are really undervalued underpaid and underestimated in Singapore. They work long hours, have KPIs have different roles to play and yet we are so calculative with them.

Ronald Leng suggested:

Teaching is such a noble profession, yet so little is done to elevate their professional status. MOE's function should be unrelentlessly elevating the status of our educators so that in time this uniquely Singapore profession will be perceived as on a par with lawyers, scientists and doctors and remunerated accordingly; helping each and every teachers to publish books (enhanced their income contributions) may be one method. Collecting parking fees from teachers is such disrespect (when other professions/expats are incentivised to driving) to teaching profession; not unlike a pay cut and limiting capabilities to do more in bringing up and moulding our future kids. Instead MOE could have payout the “carparking fees” in kind to non-driving teachers as adjustments instead. Let’s the kids have HAPPY TEACHERS. Collect the parking fees only when educators’ status are elevated and remunerated like doctors, scientists and best/better paying jobs.

Desirée Ho suggested an alternative to charging teachers for parking: 

If we can just lower the pay of our MPs instead of [that of] tired, passionate teachers who use 1000% of their effort to teach students well & care well for them to be fork out parking charges. I've no idea what the government is thinking at all. I'm utterly disappointed.

Mohammad Ammar Azhar pointed out the absurdity of potentially raising teachers’ salary only to have parking fees take away a portion of said salary:

U-turn by the gov. Clear cut! After the uproar! Money kept by school. Increase teachers pay to reimburse parking fee. Net net back to square one. So teachers will keep quiet. MPs still pay $1 per day.  [Even] Secondary students can also read this move.

Andy Wong wrote:

With $8m to $10m revenue a year, Ministries will cut their budget spend given to these schools right?

Jacky Chuang commented: 

Good. Now it’s time to implement full parking charges to all the RC and TC workers and also to the Ministers. Let’s be really compliant and transparent here, as stated by Mr Ong Ye Kung.

Natalie Cheng also chimed in with a suggestion:

If it is revenue to the school, then [they] should let all the teachers park for free, as this is a part of the welfare. What’s the point of having motivational talk and on the other hand dampen teachers' morale and creating an image that teachers are worthless? Where’s the former noble image? This is penny wise, pound foolish. [The] Quality of policymakers is going from bad to worse.

Daniel Yeo chimed in with suggestions: 

Let’s vote now that since you have implemented car park charges that teachers gets paid like professionals. Don’t you think they play one of the most important roles in our lives? Some [of them are] even more important than our Ministers, so perhaps we base them at $15,000/mth (MP allowances). We can be the first country to reward academia.

Lillian Lee also suggested:

Maybe the monies collected can be given to the teachers to buy red pens and other stationery. And also for reimbursement when they pay out of their own pockets for refreshments for students at competitions to motivate them, celebrate their wins etc.

Aloysius Tay suggested:

It's ridiculous. Why charge the teacher for parking at their office(school)? This is not where they want to limit the ownership of private vehicle. If government want to limit ownership then target from ERP which is more general instead of teacher.

William Sam said:

Let me suggest this. We fine students for misbehaviour. Teachers in the staff room always suggest this. They feel it will greatly improve discipline. Can collect a lot in fines.

Patrick Tan wrote:

Parking fees kept by schools so the Government can cut down their budget for schools, as the teachers are already funding it... What a joke…

Lee Nguang Chua said:

Very soon teachers will give up driving to school, discourage[d] to own a car. Even teacher[s] are driving Grab car to get income subsidy.

Jonus Jun asked some pertinent questions:

1) is the school short of money that it needs to raise money through car parks?
2) are you telling me MOE will no longer fund some of the programs run by the schools?
3) is the revenue taxable?
4) schools are suppose to be a non profit organization, why now they need to earn money from car parks?

It doesn't make sense to me… We are facing a 2% GST increase, and the money collected from GST is supposed to fund for medical, education and defence, so now what is the real purpose of increasing GST?

Ah Soh commented:

Thought all fees and charges collected by any government departments or agencies is considered revenue and should be channelled to the consolidated fund for disbursements during budget time. How come for this the schools keep the money?

Mike Ang Xuan Zong pointed out the double standards in implementing policies:

Ministers and teachers all fall into civil services category. Sound same same but different treatment seriously. Double standard.

Ruth Tay commented: 

How about the parking for MPs at Parliament House and HDBs? What value is that based on??

Daniel Yeo said:

Also, what’s the point in having the school keep the $$$, u feeling bad is it after u get whacked by netizens for implementing rubbish??

Arifin Dingaroo Othman wrote: 

Teachers often buy items like snacks, stationery and gifts, [they] should now claim [disbursements] back from the school.

Chris Lee said: 

It’s okay to reverse the decision; better to admit it was not a wise decision to begin with than to be stubborn and press on with the policy. 10mm easily obtained by adding 50cents to each ERP gantry

David Koh protests against the unfairness in the implementation of the policy:

Government should implement [rules such as that] everyone has to pay for parking, regardless [of] who you are. The President, Prime Minister, other Ministers etc -- why must you guys always be accorded with free parking and even reserved lots for you? You are nothing special, you were elected to serve the people and not the other way around.

Say Thye Ng said the decision should be left to the schools’ discretion:

Why don’t let the school to decide on whether they want to collect parking fee or not?

Rey Ong said:

How about MPs pay for their own parking too... and the constituencies keep the money.

David Ho suggested:

Use this money to help those poor students or support those poor students for external tuition or learn life skills that they are interested in.

Jeff Lew postulated:

So that government can reduce subsidies to schools.

Jonathan Pung commented:

I believe it as much as I believe that GST is for helping the poor.

Edmund WS gave an analogy illustrating the absurdity of the new rates:

Why don't your boss deduct some of your pay, and then use that money to buy you a company trip at the end [of the year]? Good right?

Victor Lau pointed out the absurdity of the parking rates:

Brilliant... Own self provide welfare own self.

Toh Chun Hoe thinks the move only adds to the tedium of bureaucracy:

Extra paperwork for left pocket into right pocket. Waste of productivity.

Dennis J Tan fears the possible misuse of the collected revenue:

Money collected to be kept in school… Next thing they will cut budget to schools… Left pocket to right pocket…

Paikia Joe commented:

And can the school decide to refund the monies back to their teachers? It’s the school discretion yes?

Sing Delivery argued if other civil servants have to abide by the same regulations:

how about army camps? police stations and police academy… also civil defence... see a lot of cars park outside fire station also... just drive past Sengkang Fire station can see already.. do they pay for the parking also?

Richard Quek fears that the move will lead to a slippery slope:

School fees will increase next.

Ryan Ng commented:

Shame full as our society has become money orientated lacking in morality. Monetised for sacrifices.

Zairu Deen commented:

Now nobody wants to be teachers oh my gawd dayummm 🙄

Brendan Yam commented:

Maybe they will start charging for standing in MRTs.

However, a few netizens agreed with the parking rates that are to be implemented in August.

Bilal Omar said:

The revenue will be given back to teachers as part of their school welfare for teachers.

Kas Hino commented:

Later use for bonus. The money [goes] back to teachers again.

Jen Lim C H said:

I'm confident that the revenue received would be channeled to good causes. Although I won't deny that some dedicated and hardworking teachers deserve a free parking benefit, I guess they would be compensated in another form😉

Tan Ke Huat said: 

Well-paid so can own car, but complain because no free parking.