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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 21, 2024


Two St. Croix senators gave failing marks Thursday to the Education Department plan, announced a day earlier, to make students pay for school bus service starting next fall.
Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, questioned how Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds arrived at the costs for the bus service for students in the private and public school system. Simmonds cited charges of $5 a week for elementary school pupils and twice that for junior and senior high school students.
"If she has not determined ridership, how can she arrive at the cost for the service?" Jn Baptiste asked.
Calling the plan ill-conceived and unfair at a time when "many families are suffering the effects of a prolonged economic recession in the Virgin Islands," Jn Baptiste suggested that Simmonds could have used the $23,000 she spent on the purchase of a new sport utility vehicle towards departmental needs. A V.I. Daily News article a month ago said Simmonds spent about that much in federal discretionary funds to purchase a new 4-wheel-drive vehicle to replace an ailing sedan.
Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, meanwhile, called on Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II to "stop the madness." Parents and guardians of school-age children do not have the finances in place to deal with the proposed charges, she said. "Increases in utilities, taxes and the implementation of mandatory auto insurance has left parents scrambling to provide for their children," she said.
Hansen accused the administration of attempting to balance the territory's budget on the backs of the "poor people." She added, "They are nuts to believe that type of taxation, this madness, would prevail."

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