July 8, 2002 – Several measures intended to help the territory's high schools take some steps forward on the long road to accreditation became law with Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's signature over the weekend.
They were among numerous amendments to a bill appropriating $1.3 million to the Human Services Department to pay for the care of severely disabled Virgin Islanders in a Texas facility.
However, Turnbull said in his transmittal letter to Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd that the education measures are "in a large part redundant, as this authority already exists in Act 6333 and elsewhere in the V.I. Code." Further he wrote, "some of the hastily drafted provisions lack detail and appropriate safeguards."
But the governor said he nonetheless signed the amendments into law "in the hope that they will in fact help the Department of Education regain its accreditation of our high schools." He added, "It is my sincere hope that the gaps in the legislation do not create more problems than they solve."
The education measures are to:
– Appropriate up to $50,000 for each public school principal for materials, equipment and services.
– Provide for the hiring of purchasing agents to assist school principals.
– Create and fund a substitute teacher pool, to be funded by the Finance commissioner two weeks before the start of the school year at $150,000 for senior high schools and $100,000 for junior high schools. Principals will be able to issue paychecks to substitute teachers from the pool.
– Create an Education Initiative Fund to collect and channel money into Imprest Fund checking accounts for discretionary spending, direct the Bureau of Audit and Control to audit each such account annually and provide audit reports to the governor and the Legislature, and designate which school officials hold spending power.
These measures reflect items in the "Corrective Action Plan" worked out by local education officials and Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools representatives in a June meeting.
In other action, Turnbull line-item vetoed:
– An appropriation authorizing payment of $34,000 to Maurice's Enterprises for mechanical work performed for the Narcotics Strike Force between 1988 and 1994. The governor said he had no documentation or corroboration to substantiate the expenses and the statute of limitations governing much of the matter has expired.
– A bill allowing government employees to have health insurance coverage for dependent children up to the age of 25 if the children attend school full time or attend part time and are unemployed; and a stipulation that this legislation be effective until July 1, 2003.
Turnbull said the insurance legislation would usurp the authority of the Health Insurance Board, and that the board was not consulted. "Input was not garnered as to the total ramifications of implementing this amendment," he concluded.
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