A different form of throwing money into the abyss
Five hundred and sixty-seven thousand dollars. This is the amount of taxpayer dollars the Minister of Finance has earmarked in last month’s $15 million economic relief package, for financial aid for every student enrolled in public school, and to help parents/guardians with the purchase of “back to school” supplies. According to the Ministry of Education’s website, there are about 4,800 students in the public school system who are eligible to receive $150 each from the Government. The numbers don’t add up, but maybe it is expected that not every parent will apply for or accept relief.
Last week, the Minister of Education, Diallo Rabain, said: “This relief of $150 is a one-time payment available for each student enrolled in a government preschool, primary school, middle school or senior high school. Parents and guardians should expect an e-mail from the Department of Education to register to receive the funding. The e-mail will include the complete instructions required to obtain the relief funds. The primary parent or guardian listed in the Department’s PowerSchool system will be contacted via their registered e-mail and asked to provide the necessary information to process a direct payment to their bank account.”
Make no mistake, these are hard economic times for many families and I am supportive of this initiative, and sure this relief will be welcomed by many. I do, however, question the method by which these funds are to be distributed. A direct payment into the recipient’s bank account — the Savvy Entertainment $800,000 loan comes to mind — hardly ensures that the funds will be used as the Government intends and, in addition, not every parent whose child/children attend public school can be categorised as “in need”, which the Premier himself very well knows.
There is no indication that I can find where “means testing” is required for this initiative to ensure qualified persons receive the funds, which begs the question of how well thought out was this financial aid policy? With the present tenuous state of the Government's bank account, we can ill afford wastage of even $1, yet here we are about to transfer up to $567,000 to the accounts of parents/guardians with no strings attached as to how the monies will be spent.
Also, on the subject of helping our community, our thanks and appreciation should go to Gina Spence and her charity, Gina Spence Productions, which has been rallying the community for more than ten years, fundraising to help prepare youngsters for the return to school. On average, this effort serves between 800 and 1,200 children per year. Gina Spence Productions has partnered with Gibbons Company for a sponsorship campaign that covers a full uniform along with a backpack. Ms Spence said: “The way a child looks when they go into school has a lot to do with how they perform in school. There is no typical portrait of the family in need; it’s private school students, public school, preschoolers. It’s just all across the board.”