There is still no resolution on the request by private secondarys schools for a fee increase per students by the Ministry of Education, following half an hour of talks between the schools and a Government team led by Finance Minister Colm Imbert yesterday.
Schools were not given any indication of what Government plans to offer them but were asked to provide additional information to Imbert by today.
At the start of yesterday’s meeting, Imbert is reported to have told principals a short meeting was unavoidable because of other Cabinet commitments. But he said it had become a very contentious issue and he wanted to ensure there was a resolution and that a reasonable, fair and just payment is agreed upon.
Imbert, according to principals who attended, indicated he had a “mandate” to settle the issue but had to ensure that he got it right.
After the meeting, Corpus Christi College acting vice principal Anthony McCollin told the T&T Guardian “it’s very tiring, it’s unsettling and it’s disturbing that we came back to another fact finding meeting.”
He said Imbert gave no indication what figure the Education Minister had proposed to the Cabinet to counter their request for $5700 per student per term.
“Absolutely no discussion of that nature took place,” he said.
“We came back around the table, 13 schools represented in a room, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Education and there was no indication of what was the figure the Government was possibly looking at. All they want to do was to ensure that our fee was justified after 13 years.”
Imbert sought an explanation on how the $5700 was arrived at, to which Mc Collin explained that teachers at the private schools are currently underpaid and the money being requested takes into accounting paying increased salaries, pensions, gratuities and terms and conditions “so our teachers can be treated with the respect they deserve as educators.”
He said while the Association of Private Secondary Schools had presented a “very clear document which outlined the cost of educating each child, what again is being requested is information from each individual school with respect to the number of students in the school and the teacher to student ratio.”
Mc Collin said Imbert indicated that he had a copy of the original document which was sent, but still asked that it be resent with the information requested and some additional “private information with respect to the private students intake and how much the private parents pay.”
That information has to be provided by today (Friday) and the parties are to meet again in one week’s time.
Imbert was told that 80-90 per cent of the students are assigned to the schools by the Government and the schools are running millions of dollars of deficit annually, because they cannot increase the fees paid by private students because of the small $1200 fee paid by the Government.
But Imbert is reported to have told the meeting he needed details because Government currently spends in the region of $11 million on students assigned to the schools and if the fees is increased to $5700 it would mean a substantial increase in the cost to the state.
Mc Collin said, “We need to keep in mind that the Government is purchasing school places in these private schools and if you are purchasing a place you have to be very careful of coming across as though you could tell the private schools what their cost should be. That’s a very backward formula and it’s almost insulting.”
School officials also reminded Imbert that they were yet to receive payments for the school term just ended.