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Teachers to pay for parking at schools from Aug 1

SINGAPORE — Teachers at all national schools and junior colleges will have to pay for parking at school premises from August 1, following a policy review by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Teachers at all national schools and junior colleges will soon have to pay for parking, following a carpark policy review for schools. Photo: Koh Mui Fong/TODAY

Teachers at all national schools and junior colleges will soon have to pay for parking, following a carpark policy review for schools. Photo: Koh Mui Fong/TODAY

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SINGAPORE — Teachers at all national schools and junior colleges will have to pay for parking at school premises from August 1, following a policy review by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Across the island, educators and other school staff were given a briefing about the new carpark charges on Monday (March 26) morning before classes commenced. These were later confirmed by MOE in response to media queries.

Those who drive cars have to pay S$720 annually for parking in uncovered lots and S$960 for covered lots. Meanwhile, those who ride motorcycles have to pay S$123 yearly for parking in uncovered lots and S$135 for covered lots.

The changes came about two years after MOE said it was reviewing carpark charges for schools "in accordance to civil service guidelines", and schools would be told of the changes, if there were any. Back then, the ministry asked the public to be patient and sought their understanding as they "are taking the time to do this carefully".

The review was triggered by the Auditor-General's (AG) disapproval in 2015 of some educational institutions allowing their staff to park for free or charging fees below the market rate.

Such practices were "tantamount to providing hidden subsidies for vehicle parking", the AG had said in an annual report of financial lapses at public sector organisations.

The AG's remarks ignited a public debate about whether teachers have to pay parking charges.

Those who were against charging teachers for parking argued that the educators need to drive as they work long hours and start early in the day. Some also noted that teachers may pay for classroom materials without being reimbursed.

Last October, all five polytechnics here and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) started charging staff for parking on their premises. The monthly fees for season parking at the polytechnics are at S$80 for surface spaces and S$110 for sheltered spaces.

The latest announcement drew mixed reactions among teachers.

Teachers who spoke to TODAY declined to be named as they are not authorised to comment on the matter in public.

A secondary school teacher in her 30s said that her principal had called for an "urgent briefing" before school commenced earlier this morning to inform teachers of the carpark charges. She added that the principal said the move is to ensure a "clean wage policy" for teachers that should not include any hidden perks or subsidies.

A 40-year-old teacher in a primary school said he saw the news coming since it has been discussed a "long time ago, and is only a matter of time it will be implemented". Another secondary school teacher in his 20s added that it was fair since parking fees were already introduced in polytechnics and the ITE.

However, another secondary school teacher said it was "unfair" for teachers to pay for carpark charges during the school holidays. "We don't really come back every day, so what's the point of paying?" she added.

Noting that demand for parking fluctuates significantly between the school term and holidays, MOE said the annual parking charges are collected via monthly rates that are correspondingly higher during the school term and lower during the holidays. "This better reflects a sense of fair charging for the teachers, and was an important feedback we took away from our consultations with school leaders on the implementation aspects of school parking charges," said MOE. "Likewise, for ease of administration, MOE would also implement uniform parking charges for all schools regardless of location."

'FREE AUTHORISED AD-HOC PARKING'

Nevertheless, some teachers wondered if they have to pay parking fees when they drive to another school for meetings and park their vehicles there.

Responding to TODAY's queries, an MOE spokesperson said that "as a guiding principle, school parking lots will be prioritised for staff season parking".

"However due to schools' operating nature, there is a need at times for schools to authorise visitor or ad hoc parking for official and operational reasons, such as for school events or parent and stakeholder engagement," said the spokesperson. "On this basis, each school will have discretion to authorise incidental or ad hoc parking by visitors, staff, and other stakeholders. However, such ad hoc parking, which is free, should generally not displace or be at the expense of staff who have paid for season parking."

Examples of incidental or ad hoc parking include instances when external parties attend official school meetings or events, as well as when parents or staff pick up or drop off passengers.

The MOE spokesperson said approval for incidental or ad hoc parking should be "consistent and fair", citing the example that if a school is prepared to consider one-off requests by coaches for occasional or incidental parking, it may have to be prepared to consider similar requests from staff members as well.

However, MOE cautioned that such incidental parking should "not lead to abuse". "For example, if a school assesses that certain users regularly request or take advantage of ad hoc parking privileges in lieu of having to pay season parking charges, the school should require such users to either pay for season parking (if available), or park in nearby or alternative car parks outside the school," said its spokesperson. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JEREMY LEE

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