Education Minister Norma Foley has insisted she is trying to secure extra money in next week’s budget to tackle the school bus crisis which has left many children without transport to school. school.
appearing on RTÉ Prime time program on Tuesday evening ahead of her appearance before a Dáil committee on the matter this morning, she said she was in talks with the Ministry of Public Expenditure to see if it could allocate additional funds in the budget so that pupils benefit public transport “concessionaires” tickets will also have a seat on the bus.
Ms Foley announced in July that school transport fees would be waived for the next school year, saving families around €500 a year. Since then, more than 8,000 children have applied for a seat on school buses, but some parents have been slow to receive their school bus tickets.
Ms Foley insisted that 124,000 pupils who met the criteria for free school transport benefited.
Asked about those children who have not yet received their bus tickets, she said: ‘I am in discussions specifically for those outside the loop who did not meet the criteria and who are concessionaires to see s ‘there is room from the Public Expenditure Department if we can secure additional funds, perhaps to cater for this particular cohort.
“These discussions are ongoing in the context of all the rest of the budget and we will see next Tuesday.”
She will appear this morning before the Joint Committee for Education, Higher and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science to discuss among other things “the safe and sustainable reopening of schools”, even if the question of school transport should dominate the meeting.
But Labor education spokesman Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who also appeared on Prime timesaid her words did indeed ring hollow and claimed she had to be ‘kidged and screamed’ to discuss the matter at today’s education committee meeting.
‘I have previously described the Ministry of Education as a dysfunctional Debs committee and the minister now appears to be the chairman of the Debs committee who just bagged the buses,’ he said.
He said the free bus ride scheme was announced in July, but claimed Ms Foley was missing before schools reopened for the fall.
“We had to issue the Education Committee five different dates for her to appear before us to discuss this matter. If she had come in front of us and said, “Yes, I understand there are some start-up issues, but we’re trying to fix them.” But she didn’t do that,” he said.
“It’s all firefighting with this minister. He was told clearly – it was clear that Bus Éireann had given him no idea that they would be able to meet the capacity requirements of this new policy. Obviously they were always going to get more people to apply for tickets, some people I understand asked for tickets and don’t use them.
“If you’re going to announce something, you’re doing it right and you’re doing it so it can be delivered,” he said.