Commentary ‘Hit the road, Jack and don’t you come back no more’ — Ray Charles

Strike One

On Friday, March 14, we learned through the Bermuda Sun that Dr Edmond Heatley had been shortlisted for a superintendent post in New Orleans.

This apparently came as a surprise to some: “This is something we have just learned about today…” — Education and Economic Development Minister Dr. Grant Gibbons

Strike Two

Dr Heatley has hired more non-Bermudian “experts” whom we have paid to travel overseas to acquire more “expertise”.

Why are we not investing our limited resources into training Bermudians?

Strike Three

How can staff, parents and students believe in his assertion that he is “committed to the students of Bermuda and… to improving the Bermuda education system” while he also states “I can confirm that I am a finalist in a superintendent search in Orleans Parish”? Mate, kindly stay in New Orleans. As Bermudian parents, we do not wish anyone leading Education who merely views our students as Plan B.

We make no apologies.

Education is left fighting for representation by a part-time Minister, whose only response to this latest controversy was, “…. we are just going to have to wait and see how this plays out” — MP Dr Grant Gibbons, Bernews interview.

Would Dr Gibbons wait if the General Manager of one of his companies was seeking another job? Our children deserve better; our country’s future depends on it.

“In a successful economy, there are many essential jobs that Bermudians should rightly occupy with proper training and education… It is the responsibility of Government to help prepare Bermudians to take advantage of these opportunities.” — OBA Jobs & Economic Turnaround Plan For a broader perspective, let’s review how the Department of Education will be impacted by the recently tabled 2014/15 Budget:

• Funds slated for Education were reduced by $6.1m year-over-year, the second largest cut amongst all ministries

• Spending for Literacy Initiative cut 50% from $508k to $254k

• Paraprofessionals funds slashed 34% from $5.8m to $3.8m

• Financing for total scholarship awards fell 20% from $1.25m to $1m.

This cut represents a 50% decline from 2011/12 n Further Education Awards were cut by 83% from $240k to $40k.

The OBA has slashed funding for both public education and financing for further studies, yet the OBA has zero problem spending our tax dollars on the following:

• $240,000 for 2 persons to produce press statements for Premier Cannonier

• $180,000 on travelling expenses for Premier Cannonier

• $167,000 on travelling expenses for Minister Crockwell n $50,000 for two ministers to travel to Singapore

• $5,067,000 in total travel expenses

• $20,000,000 in hotel tax concessions

In an ever-changing global market, we need to be encouraging our students to seize educational opportunities.

Industries are evolving to be more technologically driven. If we are to successfully compete with the outside world, we need highly-educated Bermudians.

However, it is apparent that this is not a priority for the OBA. With each budget, less and less funding is being directed to ensuring our public school students have equal access to opportunities.

Failure to invest in our students today will equate to a widening of class divisions based not only on race but on education and employment abilities as well.

Next in the Education Series, I will address the lack of a dedicated Education Minister, and Permanent Secretary.

Buckle up, Bermuda, class is in session. n Feedback: carib_pro@ yahoo.com