We, the stalwart citizens of this territory, need to wake up and smell the bush tea! I am growing so weary of this collective government looking to our broken backs to take on more and more of the burden created from their mismanagement, misappropriations, and chronic thievery. Enough is enough.
There is much squeaking and squalling going on these days regarding the exorbitant school fees being imposed on the parents for each attending child. These fees are being charged by the same governmental department whose director just recently appeared before the Senate finance committee hearings submitting a departmental 2004 budget reduced by $2.1 million.
Hello?! Someone explain to me, please, how we can reduce the Department of Education budget by $2.1 million. Has the level of education that our children are receiving risen so drastically that we can now reduce the amount of funding provided to support their learning environment? Yes, it was stated that the shortfall in the areas of materials, supplies and capital spending would be covered by the Casino Revolving Fund. Right!! It appears to me as if this shortfall is being covered by the blood and sweat of the parents who have already paid for all of these shortages via their tax dollars. If we give you the money to pay once, and you screw it up or stuff it in your administratively top-heavy pockets, don't come back again and ask for us to pay a second time. When we go back into our pockets to pay for something we've already paid for we're the ones that are the fools.
This is getting to be truly ridiculous, and more than a bit embarrassing. If one were to research and compare the amounts of federal funding received, per capita, for educational purposes here in the territory, compared with the funding received, per capita, for any of the 50 states, I'm certain that we would drop our heads in shame. It would behoove us, as well, in our research, to compare collective SAT, PSAT and ACT scores and Standardized Equivalency Tests. How, in the name of God, can we look our children in the eyes knowing what a disservice we are allowing this government to impose on them in the name of education? And we wonder what is wrong with this rude, disrespectful, hard, shameless younger generation? It's us. That's what's wrong. We are allowing the situation to be as it is.
Let's do our math. We really need to look at the sum total of dollars being collected by the Department of Education for each child within the public school system this school year. I laugh at the thought of the public's reaction when we get the total.
Why should we donate yet more money to this Department? To quote the Inspector General's June 5, 2003, letter to Gov. Turnbull outlining the approximately $1.5 million in equipment that the St. Thomas/St. John District cannot account for: "The Virgin Islands Department of Education (VIDE) has had serious and recurring deficiencies in its administration of federally funded programs." . . . "Property cannot be effectively tracked and may remain in warehouses, be delivered to incorrect locations or be stolen rather than benefiting students in classrooms."
That's sad, to say the least. Now we, the parents, must dig further into our financially challenged wallets to pay for what they are inept at managing.
It is time that we hold this Department responsible. It is time that we demand proper administration and management of the local and federal funding received. It is time that we demand the appropriate support, compensation, training and appreciation for the over-burdened, burnt-out faculty being placed in ill-equipped, poorly maintained, inoperable facilities and coming out of their own pockets to provide necessary materials and supplies for their classrooms. How can we expect them to properly educate our children? It is time we demand that the necessary tools be provided them, and thusly our children. It is time we demand that the administration manage the funding and facilities placed under their jurisdiction in a responsible fashion, creating an environment that promotes learning. The funding is available. The facilities are available. The dedicated, educated, hardworking, concerned faculty members are in place.
Bridget L. Cox-Dawson
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