Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Another auxiliary fee revision

Published:Wednesday | July 27, 2016 | 7:00 AMJovan Johnson
Holness

There has seemingly been another revision of the Government's policy governing the very contentious removal of auxiliary fees from the secondary-school system.

The latest change has not come from Education Minister Ruel Reid but from his boss, Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

During a chaotic sitting of the House of Representatives yesterday, Holness asserted on several occasions that under the new system, $19,000 has been budgeted for each child at the secondary-school level.

However, that appears to contradict a statement issued by the education ministry on June 26 that suggested a minimum of $11,500 had been set aside for each child and various factors would determine whether a child got the full additional increase of $7,500.

Each time Holness was asked the same question by different opposition members, he reiterated that each child would get the maximum.

But he was emphatic on one particular occasion.

"The commitment given today in this Parliament by this prime minister, the commitment is a per-capita grant to schools of $19,000 as it was distributed before," he told the House, pointing to the payment of the first tranche to schools in June under the new system.

On June 26, the education ministry, in a statement, pointed to a new "funding formula" it says will create "a unique budget for each school based on the number, age, prior attainment and socio-economic status of students".

It did not say that each school was guaranteed the maximum amount.

The statement said the school funding would specifically take in an age-weighted amount and a social premium which it said was "for students from difficult socio-economic backgrounds using proxy indicators such as the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).

STUDENT PREMIUM UNIT

There is also the 'student premium unit' said to be based on the assessed attainment levels of students as they enter the school.

The calculation of the amount allocated to students would also, according to the document, take in "curriculum premium weighting to reflect the increased staffing and resourcing demands in schools".

But Stanford Davis, the principal of May Day High in Manchester, said based on ministry guidelines up to yesterday, no school was guaranteed the maximum $19,000 per student.

"My understanding is that it is up to $19,000. There are several parameters that they used. No school will get $19,000 for every child. That is only possible if every student is on PATH," he told The Gleaner.

Ronald Thwaites, who was education minister under the former administration, told The Gleaner that his understanding prior to Holness' intervention was that the $19,000 was only the maximum, as each child's allocation would be determined by various factors.

Members of parliament yesterday admitted their agitation over the auxiliary fee issue is linked to the concerns of their constituents entering the back-to-school period.

Schools have argued that the removal of auxiliary fees would affect their operations, as they would not get sufficient funding from the Government.

But Holness insisted that the increase in the secondary school budget to $5.3 billion, from $2.6 billion, would be significant in helping schools with their operations.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com