Piccoli challenged over school travel subsidy

Mary Fogarty
Research Officer

Subsidy should be to the nearest public school.

The union has rekindled its decades-long campaign of opposition to aspects of a transport subsidy for students to travel far beyond their local school with a letter to the NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli.

The Private Vehicle Conveyance subsidy is available for eligible school students who are residents of NSW and lack public transport for all or part of their journey to school. The subsidy is paid based on the distance between the student’s home and the nearest transport pickup point or school.

Parents can choose any school for their child or children no matter how distant it is from their place of residence. There is no obligation to prove a local public school is unsuitable for their child/ren even if it is located close to home.

Payment is per kilometre and is made every six months as a lump sum. Parents are paid for each child transported despite the fact that it costs the same to transport four students in a car as it does one. It is possible for a parent to be working in the same town as the location of their school of choice and be travelling there every day as a matter of course.

Federation’s letter to Mr Piccoli, sent on January 7, raises concerns about the continued payment of the subsidy to families transporting their children beyond their local public schools while denying transport funding to students living within 2km of their schools.

As a country MP, Minister Piccoli would be aware that providing a transport subsidy for students to travel far beyond their local school leads to local school closures in rural and remote areas, with associated economic consequences for the towns in which these schools are located.

In 2007, the NSW government initiated a review of the Private Vehicle Conveyance scheme. A major recommendation was that the Private Vehicle Conveyance payment be based on a per-family payment. The government did not accept this recommendation and continued to base the payment on an individual student basis.

Federation’s letter states: “For a government constantly demanding economic restraint in all areas of government it is difficult to justify the continued payment of large sums of money to parents who choose to travel long distances beyond their local school. The continued payment on an individual student basis when the government’s own inquiry recommended payment per vehicle usage is particularly difficult to understand.”

As far back as the 1980s, Federation challenged the right of parents to be subsidised by state money for expenses incurred by their decision to send their child/ren to a private school.

In a submission to an inquiry into the School Transport Scheme in 2002 Federation stated:

“Students should be subsidised for travel to their nearest public school.

“The NSWTF has held a firm view for a number of reasons, including educational and social, that the delivery of public education is best undertaken by students at their neighbourhood public primary school and their local comprehensive secondary school.”