Reid recants claims of corruption, extortion - Opposition, JTA blast minister
Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid has withdrawn his references of extortion and corruption by several schools for breaching the non-mandatory fees policy, this as he came under public pressure for highlighting specific public institutions deemed non-compliant.
In a Tweet late yesterday afternoon, Reid said, "I withdraw the reference of extortion and corruption to breach of non-mandatory fees policy #JTA#schoolAdmin. #leadbyexample."
At a post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House on Wednesday, Reid named six schools that he claimed have been accused of using "creative means" to force parents to pay for their children's education.
He later warned principals and boards (of directors) that they would face strong action from the ministry for continued breaches.
In a press release issued yesterday, the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) declared that Reid's action was an insult and the most inappropriate way to bring about cooperation.
The response dictated that principals who pressed for contributions from parents were neither corrupt nor extortionate.
In questioning Reid's worthiness to hold his office in light of his remarks, the Opposition urged the Government to remedy the issue by "sending each school all that they need to balance their budgets and improve their programmes".
The Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) struck a lighter tone in its communiquÈ, referring to the minister's claims as "unfortunate".
"We believe that these comments will serve no useful purpose than to create animosity and confrontation and could also destroy the integrity of school boards and administrators," the group said.
While adding that the JTA would not condone any action that deprives students of their education, the body pressed for Reid to withdraw his statements to facilitate continued dialogue and consultations with the schools in order to arrive at an amicable resolution.
In a release yesterday, the minister stated that where schools have funding shortfalls in meeting operational needs, they should contact the education ministry for assistance.
"We have funds and will provide as needed," said Reid, while adding that he and senior ministry staffers have regular meetings with the JTA, and no concerns had been raised over the past year about funding shortfalls.
"I am always open to dialogue, however, I expect that principals will comply with the non-mandatory fees policy. Any deviation is a breach."