Parents counting the cost of axed bus travel

COFFS Coast mother Maureen McDermot thought education was free in Australia, but news that the State Government is planning to axe free school travel for students makes her wonder just how free it really is.

Changes to the School Student Transport Scheme, which has subsidised student travel to and from school for more than 40 years, are expected to cost parents almost $400 a child each year.

For Maureen, that's money her family just doesn't have.

“I have three children so that's $1200 a year we'll just have to find, somehow,” Maureen said.

Woolgoolga P & C president, Sue Larsen, said parents across the Coffs Coast would be affected by the changes to a scheme that is used by half of public school students and 75 per cent of private school students state wide.

Ms Larsen said 14 buses pull up at Woolgoolga High each day, and with 40 kids to a bus she wonders how many of them would find a different way to school if it wasn't free.

“What's going to happen is all those kids who used to take the bus for free will now either cost their parents money in fuel, cost the environment because of more cars on the road, or the kids will be forced to walk to school along the highway,” Ms Larsen said.

“We're all tightening our belts and I'm not sure the government should be tightening their belts by penalising parents.”

Treasurer Eric Roozendaal said reform was essential due to NSW's financial situation.

“It will be a tough process but tough economic times require tough decisions,” Mr Roozendaal said.

“The government rightly subsidises the cost of public transport, but we also have to be realistic about what we can afford.”

The changes are expected to be unveiled in the State mini-budget by NSW Treasurer Eric Roozendaal on November 11.

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