AEU slams bus subsidies

TEACHERS say a state government backflip on restricting school choices but keeping bus subsidies was just another case of middle-class welfare.

Australian Education Union Tasmanian president Terry Polglase said yesterday the announcement by newly appointed Education Minster Brian Wightman on an out-of-home-area policy had implications for the entire state budget.

Sacked Education Minister Nick McKim had proposed restrictions on parents sending children to schools outside their area but deferred a decision and Mr Wightman has rescinded the plan.

Mr Polglase said he was concerned about the fate of the Fairbrother school viability report, a wide-ranging review of education released in 2012.

The report recommended a review of school buses, with a new ticket system that increased fares the further a student travelled past their nearest school.

``The AEU supports school choice but not at taxpayer expense,'' he said. 

``Successive state governments have subsidised student travel to school of choice and it is now costing our state $19 million a year.

``The transport cost to the government to enable students to attend their local school is also $19 million a year but this expense is, of course, widely supported.

``If bus travel becomes user-pay if students travel past their local school, the $19 million a year in savings could instead be used in other areas of education, on hospital services or other vital government activities. 

``I would argue that this is no more than middle-upper class welfare and should cease.''

Opposition education spokesman Michael Ferguson said Labor's ``pretend  pirouette'' was unbelievable.

He said Labor and the Greens had argued for three years against choice for parents.

He said the Liberals would allow parents to decide what school their child went to, because parents were best placed to decide.

Email: michael.lowe@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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