School fees were set at $150 per month for locals and $300 for permanent residents. Families with a gross monthly household income not exceeding $3,500 or per capita income not exceeding $875 are entitled to subsidies, which could reduce the fee to as low as $10 (Gross monthly income < $2000, gross per capita income < $500). That level of subsidy we wish could be made available for public housing, not the arbitrary link/delink roulette in the spin.
Perhaps the lukewarm response could be attributable to horrible memories of the past. In April 2008, some 1,500 students attending 7 PAP Community Foundation (PCF) kindergartens in Woodlands saw their fees shoot up by 30 to 100 per cent.
Woodlands kindergartens in Blk 601 and Blk 875 hiked monthly fees from $50.90 to $110 per child because they will be air-conditioned. Air-conditioned kindergartens in blocks 899B, 652 and 824 increased fees from $86.60 to $110, while non-air-conditioned ones in blocks 624B and 853 ramped up from $50.90 to $95.
In less than 5 years from 2006 to 2011, PAP kindergarten prices had jumped 4 times. In 2006, the monthly fee was only $30.50, then in 2007 it went up to $50.60. Then in 1 July 2008, it was $95 a month. Then in 2010, it was $120 a month. Minister Grace Fu then defended the 20% price raise in 2011, saying the price "was lower than many operators".
Now we know there was a system then of awarding sites in Housing Board estates to private pre-school operators based solely on the highest bid. Naturally the operators passed on the increased costs to parents by raising fees. And thus culminating in the disgraceful practice of hiking PAP kindergarten prices because they were "lower than many operators". Now, that looks awfully similar to the pegged-to-private-sector formula that guarantees riches for a select few.