Saturday, 9 January 2016

MOE reviewing free school parking for teachers

Teachers at over 360 schools and colleges may have to pay charges, in move that could kick in this year
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 8 Jan 2016

Teachers at national schools and junior colleges face the prospect of having to pay car parking fees at their institutions, a move that could take place as early as this year.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) yesterday said it was reviewing carpark charges for schools "in accordance to civil service guidelines", and schools would be told of the changes, if any.

Should it be implemented, teachers at more than 360 schools and colleges will be affected.

Teachers contacted said they had, for several years, heard talk of parking fees being imposed, and the catalyst for the prospective move is the Auditor-General's (AG) disapproval last year of some educational institutions allowing their staff to park for free or charging fees below the market rate.

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

Reactions were mixed among teachers interviewed yesterday, all of whom declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Most said they would continue to drive to work even when they have to pay for parking.

The reason: Their work day is typically longer than eight hours, many said, and taking public transport would add to their long day.

Said a primary school teacher in his late 30s, who has been driving to school for 10 years: "I am in school by 6.30am and work about 10 to 12 hours each day, and sometimes more if there are school events. So, I will drive to work."

A 26-year-old teacher working in a junior college said: "If there is season parking and it is affordable, I will drive. But I will still be deeply unhappy to be made to pay."

Some are circumspect about the move, noting that schools and colleges are public institutions and should be governed by the same rules as any other.

Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao reported yesterday that the ministry has been discussing the issue since the start of last year.

Almost all public service organisations, including the ministry, charge for parking at their offices.

Parking remains free at most primary and secondary schools and junior colleges. The carparks are invariably meant for school staff.

But at the School of the Arts in Zubir Said Drive next to The Cathay cinema, the carpark is open to the public as well as school staff, with fees set at market prices.

Teachers may soon have to pay to park in schools.
Posted by The Straits Times on Thursday, January 7, 2016

The three institutions pinpointed by the AG last year were the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), where parking is free, and Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic, which charge parking fees below the market rate.

A check by The Straits Times found that the parking situation at all three institutions remains unchanged. Both polytechnics are still working with the relevant authorities on how much to charge, they told this newspaper.

At the ITE, eateries on the grounds of its colleges, like First Culinary Restaurant at its Ang Mo Kio college, said parking is still free for diners.

* MOE asks for patience in review on free parking
It acknowledges concerns over issue of making teachers pay to park in schools
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 13 Jan 2016

The issue of whether teachers should pay to park their cars in schools will be carefully considered, said the Ministry of Education (MOE) yesterday, as it acknowledged the debate this has generated.

"There has been much online chatter on the review of free parking in schools," MOE posted on its Facebook page yesterday.

"We understand the concerns raised and we are with you in appreciating the dedication and hard work by all our teachers."

There has been much online chatter on the review of free parking in schools. We understand the concerns raised and we...
Posted by Ministry of Education, Singapore on Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Many people, including former and current teachers, have criticised the possibility that teachers and other school staff who drive to work will no longer get to have free parking.

The Straits Times received about 25 letters to its Forum pages on the issue, with most calling for parking for teachers to remain free.

This was after The Straits Times followed up on a report last week in Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao that the ministry was considering whether to implement carpark charges at public schools.

Those against the move argued that teachers already work long hours, and often go out of their way to help students. This includes giving at-risk students a lift to school so they do not miss lessons, and taking sick ones to the doctor - all without claiming for expenses.

Others, however, said giving teachers free parking amounted to subsidising their driving cost - a perk not given to other civil servants.

"We seek your patience and understanding as we are still in the process of reviewing the carpark policy for schools, bearing in mind civil service guidelines and recent AGO (Auditor-General's Office) observations. We are taking the time to do this carefully," MOE said in the post.

The MOE is "taking the time to do this carefully", it said. "We understand the concerns raised and we are with you in appreciating the dedication and hard work by all our teachers."
Posted by The Straits Times on Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Last year, the AGO pointed out in a report that the Institute of Technical Education, Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic charged below-market rates for the use of their carparks.

This, the Auditor-General said, was akin to providing "hidden subsidies" to staff. It also went against the Government's "clean wage" policy, which stipulates that salaries are fully accounted for, with no hidden perks and privileges.

Do you think teachers should pay for parking in school? []The Ministry of Education (MOE) said...
Posted by REACHSingapore on Friday, January 8, 2016

Did you know that teachers might soon have to pay to park in schools? We spoke to 10 other ministries and statutory...
Posted by The Middle Ground on Friday, January 8, 2016

Teachers at over 360 schools and colleges may have to pay parking charges, in move that could kick in this year.
Posted by The Straits Times on Thursday, January 7, 2016

Debate over free school parking for teachers
Some argue teachers work long hours, others say it is akin to subsidising their driving cost
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 9 Jan 2016

A government review that could result in school teachers paying carpark fees at their place of work has drawn intense debate, with most commentators criticising the prospective move.

They argued that teachers at national schools and junior colleges work long hours, and many stay after school hours to coach weaker students, doing this on top of their administrative duties.

But proponents of "no free parking" countered that allowing it is as good as subsidising the cost of driving for teachers.

Mr Phang Fook Ghay, 56, who wrote to The Straits Times' Forum Page about the issue, yesterday told The Straits Times: "How do we justify giving teachers this subsidy when other civil servants are not entitled to it?"

A check with 10 public sector organisations found that it is common practice for their employees to pay for carpark spaces at their office building. Six of them, including the Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Manpower and Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, charge staff a monthly rate of about $90 for season parking, similar to that of carparks in Housing Board estates.

This is typically less than what it costs to park in a private sector building, although this varies by location. It usually costs $200 or more a month for season parking in central Singapore. For instance, Funan DigitaLife Mall in North Bridge Road charges tenants $214. At Fajar Shopping Centre in Bukit Panjang, it costs $90 a month.

Some argue teachers work long hours, others say it is akin to subsidising their driving cost.
Posted by The Straits Times on Friday, January 8, 2016

At some government offices, charges are higher than $90. Parking at the Symbiosis building in Fusionopolis, where the Media Development Authority office is located, costs $120 a month.

The Treasury building, which houses the Ministry of Law, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Trade and Industry, and is located in the City Hall area, charges $140 a month for season parking.

These payments are in line with the Government's "clean wage" policy, which stipulates that salaries are fully accounted for with no hidden perks and privileges.

As early as 2005, government agencies were told to stop giving carpark benefits regardless of whether the carpark is owned by the ministry or a commercial company.

But teachers at most national schools and junior colleges have always been able to park at their institutions for free.

However, this may soon change with the MOE reviewing carpark charges for schools "in accordance with civil service guidelines".

The review was prompted by the Auditor-General pointing out last year that three educational institutions were charging below- market rates for their carpark spaces. They were the Institute of Technical Education, Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic.

Doing so, the Auditor-General said, was akin to giving "hidden subsidies"to staff.

But many teachers interviewed said they drive to work as a necessity because their work day starts early and they work long hours.

Some use their cars to give at-risk students a ride to ensure that they attend school.

Said a 35-year-old junior college teacher: "Sometimes, teachers use their cars to take students to the doctor or hospital. And they do not make any transport claims."

Another junior college teacher said: "I don't see it as a subsidy, but a perk of the job."

His college has about 50 carpark spaces, which tend to be occupied on school days.

But economist Donald Low said giving free parking is generally inefficient. The associate dean of research and executive education at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy said: "If teachers were given a cash subsidy instead of free parking, some may value the cash more and choose not to drive. This frees up space for other purposes.

"Just because parking is free doesn't mean it has no opportunity cost. What about the basketball court that could have been built if less space is given to a carpark?"

Additional reporting by Sheryl Lee

MOE's proposed changes seem to have struck a raw nerve but no need for torches and pitchforks just yet.
Posted by The Middle Ground on Friday, January 8, 2016

It's hard to argue against this.
Posted by on Saturday, January 9, 2016

Former teacher lists 13 examples of "fees" teachers have had to pay out of their own pocket. These include classroom decorations and gifts to motivate students among others.
Posted by The Straits Times on Sunday, January 10, 2016

Parking your car for free is actually expensive
By Justin Fox, Published The Straits Times, 5 Feb 2016

In Tepper Isn't Going Out, writer Calvin Trillin's novel of parking in New York City, Murray Tepper pays for a space in a garage near his apartment on the Upper West Side and rides the subway to work.

But he cannot resist venturing out on evenings and weekends to take advantage of the amazing parking bargains that New York's streets offer. Then he just sits there in his Chevy Malibu and reads the New York Post before taking the car back to the garage.

Really, who can blame him? Metered parking in New York has got more expensive since Trillin's book was released in 2001, but it still maxes out at US$3.50 (S$5) an hour in Manhattan, much cheaper than a lot or garage. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the city's streets do not have meters, and New York does not restrict parking to residents. Anyone from anywhere can drive up next to some of the world's most expensive real estate and park for free until the next street cleaning. If they can find a space, that is - and Murray Tepper happens to be especially good at that.

As a plot device, this is surprisingly effective. As public policy, though, free parking is terrible. It amounts to, among other things, a huge subsidy for drivers, who get to store their vehicles on public land at no charge. It is also an absurdly inefficient way to allocate a scarce resource.

Finding street parking in Manhattan and the more crowded parts of New York City's other boroughs is so notoriously difficult precisely because most of the spaces are free. And while density is lower and parking rules are different in other cities in the United States, the underpricing of parking is near universal. When it comes to allocating space for cars, this nation has long pursued a remarkably collectivist, anti-free-market approach.

There are signs that this might be changing a little. Ms Rebecca Beitsch of Pew Charitable Trusts' Stateline news service reports that cities across the country are contemplating parking rates of up to US$8 an hour on busy streets.

Professor Donald Shoup from University of California, Los Angeles, who promotes demand-price parking, said: "Transportation performs better because there is less congestion, and the economy performs better because merchants have one or two spaces open near their business."

Cities are also beginning to back away from parking minimums, rules that force developers to include a certain number of parking spaces with any new building. Urbanist non-profit organisation Strong Towns recently produced a crowdsourced map detailing dozens of local-government moves in this direction, while Mr Eric Jaffe of the Atlantic's CityLab has a quick explanation of why the minimums are harmful. So maybe this is the beginning of a big societal shift towards a more market-oriented approach. The intellectual groundwork has been laid by the likes of Prof Shoup, author of a book called The High Cost Of Free Parking, and journalist Matthew Yglesias, who has been pushing free markets in parking for years.

If this movement ever starts gaining serious steam, though, it will surely also encounter serious opposition. Market-rate pricing for parking in busy business districts delivers obvious benefits for locals, along with costs. Extending the approach to residential neighbourhoods is a much dicier proposition, politically speaking.

Most big US cities offer permits that allow locals to park without restriction on residential streets where parking is otherwise limited. The fees tend to be modest - in San Francisco, it is US$110 a year; in Chicago, US$85.97; Washington, US$35; Los Angeles, US$34. This is actually an even better deal than New York City's free-to-all parking, because it means that as a resident you can usually find a space.

If cities were to raise permit prices to reflect the market value of those parking spots, or supplement the permits with meters on residential streets, one can imagine the citizen outrage that would ensue. That is partly because it would involve taking something that is currently free or cheap and charging lots of money for it. People tend not to like that.

It is also because, as economist Eren Inci of Istanbul's Sabanci University explains in the current issue of the Milken Institute Review, free or cheap parking increases nearby property values.

That is not exactly how Mr Inci puts it - he writes that the costs of free kerbside parking "are already capitalised in housing prices and rents", and concludes that this "produces negative welfare consequences" because people who do not need parking have to pay more for housing. For people who already own homes, though, it means those homes are worth more than they would be if parking cost a lot. And in cities with rent control, such as San Francisco, even renters can benefit because cheap parking increases the gap between what they pay and the market value of their dwellings.

As Dartmouth College economist William Fischel has convincingly argued, local-government priorities in the US can be largely explained as the choices of voters trying to protect their property values. This is a key reason why zoning and other land-use restrictions persist despite evidence that they slow economic growth and increase segregation by income. And it is why, while it is pretty clear that parking subsidies - another one is the federal tax benefit for commuter parking - make no economic sense, they will surely be with us for a while yet, unless some deus ex machina comes along to change everything.

There may actually be just such a plot twist in the works: the rise of the self-driving car. Technology journalist Clive Thompson has a big article in the current issue of Mother Jones making the case that robocars will do away with our parking problems by effectively doing away with parking. The idea is that the cars would pick up and drop off passengers all day. Then, when demand goes down late at night, Mr Thompson writes, "they could drive out to a remote parking spot on the outskirts of town". No human would need to drive, or park.

I would be all for that. Although I would feel at least a little sorry for the Murray Teppers of the world.


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