Cabinet committee meets today on private school fees

The Private Schools Association says it stands ready to meet with Education Minister Anthony Garcia and his team to hear what proposal is on the table on the issue of the fee increase which they have requested for students assigned by the government to private schools.

The school year ended last Friday with a virtual stand-off between the Education Ministry and the principals of the private schools, with many of the seven schools not yet in receipt of payments owed to them by the Ministry of Education for the term just ended.

The bone of contention is the fee increase requested by the private schools. They are currently paid $1,200 per child per term and say the real cost per child per term is $5,700. While Garcia admitted that the request for an increase after 13 years is a “fair one,” he said the quantum would have to be decided by the Cabinet.

Last Thursday, Garcia took a note to Cabinet for a proposed increase, but Cabinet referred the matter to the Finance and General Purpose Committee chaired by Finance Minister Colm Imbert. That Committee meets today.

Garcia said the decision of the FNGP will be taken to Cabinet at their meeting this week.

In the intervening period between Monday’s meeting of the Finance and General Purposes Committee of the Cabinet and Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, Garcia said a meeting will be scheduled with the T&T Association of Private Schools.

Officials of the Association told Guardian Media they are waiting for the invitation from the Minister because they would like to hear what is being offered to them.

The schools refused to accept students who were successful in this year’s SEA Examinations because of the impasse with the Ministry over the issue of school fees.

School officials told Guardian Media that the religious bodies which run the schools have been borrowing money over the years to meet the shortfall in what was paid by the government and had virtually been “subsidising the government’s students education.”

Head of the Inter-Religious Organisation Canon Knolly Clarke told Guardian Media last week that the Minister needed to speak with the principals. He said even Government-assisted schools found themselves in a bind and had to raise funds to ensure their schools’ upkeep.

Roman Catholic, Anglican and Seventh Day Adventist private schools are all affected by the issue.

Source: (Rosemarie Sant)