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National parenting body supports proposal for schools to charge percentage of tuition funding

Published:Thursday | April 28, 2016 | 4:00 AMJovan Johnson
Hannam
Chung
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The National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ) is urging the Government to consider a proposal by a high-school principal to allow schools to charge a fixed percentage of the planned increase in tuition assistance per student.

The Government says it intends to remove the fees come September and increase to $19,000, from $11,500, the tuition assistance per student given to the secondary schools.

But school administrators say despite the increase, the Government will not meet the funding gap, and schools that will be unable to levy fees on parents will be forced to become beggars.

Keven Jones is proposing that the Government go ahead with the increase but "cap the auxiliary fee to say a school cannot charge maybe 30 per cent of what the Government is giving".

"You still get parents to make a contribution, and I think it will go a far way in funding our programmes," he told The Gleaner.

Everton Hannam, NPTAJ president, believes the idea is worth exploring.

"The basis on which NPTAJ would want to support an initiative like that is to prevent or reduce any dislocation in the delivery of quality educational services and to engage parents in making a contribution to education," he said.

Hannam stressed, however, that any contribution to be asked of parents should not be more than what a school would normally charge as auxiliary fees.

"It should be a fee arrived at in discussion with the PTAs so they can get an understanding and agree to what partial contribution they'll make."

Meanwhile, Dennis Chung, chief executive officer of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, believes it could be difficult to arrive at a fixed percentage that schools should charge.

"I don't see how you can come up with a percentage because different schools need different resources. It (also) depends on the quality of education you're going to deliver," said Chung, who wants the national debate to focus on the total cost of delivering quality education in an efficient way.

JUST A NAME CHANGE

Byron Buckley, director of corporate communication in the education ministry, has said, "The new policy is making a distinction between 'auxiliary fees' and 'contributions'."

However, Chung believes that is just a name change. He maintains that the removal of auxiliary fees is an "inefficient" way to fund education in Jamaica.

"Parents have a responsibility, and I think it's an inefficient way that's being done. What we should be doing is having people say, 'Listen, you need to pay this fee, but if you can't afford it, then come and apply to the Government and show that you need it," he argued.

It is estimated that non-traditional high schools collect less than 40 per cent of auxiliary fees while traditional institutions have a compliance rate of about 80 per cent

The removal of the fees, which is expected to cost as much as $4 billion annually, is among the anti-austerity promises critical to Holness' Jamaica Labour Party winning the general election.

Ronald Thwaites, opposition spokesperson on education, has warned the Government about using the policy to usher in a "freeness mentality".

The Government has committed to consultations with schools administrators.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com