Foggo attacks OBA’s education budget
Progressive Labour Party Whip Lovitta Foggo took aim at the Bermuda Government's education budget yesterday, branding parts of it “woefully inadequate”.
It came as Cole Simons, the freshly appointed minister, told MPs that $126.991 million had been allocated for the 2017-18 fiscal year — an increase of $2 million from the previous year.
Mr Simons told MPs that a new “multiyear strategic plan for our public school system” had been under development since August 2016 and, starting in November, pledged to find “a facilitator experienced in the development of community-based strategic plans for public school systems”.
Conversations across the island would result in the “community agreement” that would serve as the backbone of the plan, he said, with meetings scheduled as of this week.
Ms Foggo, the Shadow Minister for Education, questioned “are we really serious about education” as she outlined a series of concerns over the lack of funding in the ministry.
She maintained that the $2 million increase was “not really an increase at all”. “This budget is a reflection of the continuing reduction from one year to the next of the education budget,” she said.
“In 2007-08, the education budget was $150 million; we are now operating a budget of 25 million fewer dollars.”
Ms Foggo told MPs: “Millions of dollars are going towards the building of a new airport but we look at education and see an increase of $2 million. In real terms that is not an increase at all because everything is going up.”
The PLP parliamentarian told the House of Assembly that she wanted to see more funding “in terms of scholarships in place for those that deserved it” and she raised concerns about the amount of allocated funds for school improvements and repairs.
“More needs to be done, more monies need to be put in place to seriously address the conditions in our schools. Where is the real commitment to get it right?”
Meanwhile, Opposition MP Diallo Rabain also raised concerns that budget cuts had been made to the learning support allocation as well as the repair and maintenance allotment.
Referring specifically to the learning support budget, he said: “We are facing a different type of child in school now.
“We are not doing our children a very good service, we should be putting resources in and looking out for them.”
Wayne Scott, the former minister of education, pointed out that maintenance budget for schools was contained in the Works and Engineering budget.
He added: “If we had not had the lapse in maintenance in the last decade we would not be here now.”