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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 3, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesLEGAL VS. MORAL – CHARGING FOR SCHOOL BUSING

LEGAL VS. MORAL – CHARGING FOR SCHOOL BUSING

Dear Source,
While Education Commissioner Simmonds is busy telling everyone that her proposal to charge students $5 or $10 per week for transportation to public schools is legal, she (as well as all other Turnbull Administration officials) should be asking themselves if it is moral.
According to the Source, the VI Code states "it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Government of the Virgin Islands to provide free transportation for school-age children, residing within and without the urban areas of the Virgin Islands, to the schools which they attend."
Morally the law seems clear – free transportation for students attending public schools. While Commissioner Simmonds and her legal advisors may be able to conjure up something else, I hope the people of the Virgin Islands are not held hostage to her short-sightedness.
A democratic government (especially one in such dire fiscal crisis) must make the difficult decisions as to which services it must(not would like to) provide.
One would hope that this administration, facing the challenges that it does, would make education a priority. By charging transportation fees, those most needing an education (the lower end of the economic ladder) are most adversely affected. How can one improve themselves without an education?
Hopefully Commissioner Simmonds would agree that education is the highway out of poverty – a situation all too many Virgin Islanders find themselves in. A free education should be something accessible to all, no matter their economic or social or ethnic status.
If the commissioner is willing to be honest with the people of the Virgin Islands, she would have to admit that this is just another stop-gap (not long-term) measure to deal with the real problem – the lack of government financing for public education.
Instead of looking at new ways to make the people of the VI pay for educating their youth, she should be looking at new ways of budgeting the money Virgin Islanders already pay to educate their youth; new ways of demanding that education be given priority over such things as hiring the Governor's family members (How much could be paid toward the $5 or $10 weekly charge from what the government pays for nepotism and patronage for the Turnbull Administration?).
Is hiring the governor's sister or niece more important than providing an education or transportation for the territory's youth? Is the $45,000 per year paid to the Lt. Governor's wife for her token role in tourism worth the number of children (140 Virgin Island children) who might not be able to afford to go to school next year because of the bus fees? What about the governor's sister? His niece or nephew? What about his other family members? Are Virgin Islanders benefitting from their outrageous salaries? Is this administration willing to make the same (or at a minimum some) sacrifices that they are demanding of the people who put them in office? It is clear they are not.
While I usually disagree with Senator Hansen's lawsuits (finding them self-serving and frivolous), I must support her on this issue. Senator Baptiste is
calling for negotiations with this administration but, as those who have come before him will note, they have little meaning. This administration will agree to anything in the short-term without considering the long-term consequences or financial effects.
To ad insult to injury, I found all too common that the Source noted that June Archibald (who, last year, received a major salary increase) did not return phone calls – something that the territory's media people did not find surprising.
How many children could receive transportation for a year for what Ms. Archibald received in a salary increase only to not return phone calls from (the media) the people she is hired to serve? Then (and only then) Commissioner Simmonds can go in front of the people of the territory and tell them – in all honesty – that every dollar that her department is being spent judiciously and in the best interest of the students (and not the
exempt personnel) only then can she ask the people to give more. If she's not up to being honest with the people of the territory and doing the job right,
Commissioner Simmonds should step down. Instead of Governor Turnbull firing his appointees for speaking out against policies that his administration, and
lackeys line Simmonds support, he should promote those who speak out in the best interest of the people of the VI. Unfortunately, administration officials and the people of the Virgin Island know that this administration will fire, without hesitation, anyone who speaks the truth of against current policy.

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Dear Source,
While Education Commissioner Simmonds is busy telling everyone that her proposal to charge students $5 or $10 per week for transportation to public schools is legal, she (as well as all other Turnbull Administration officials) should be asking themselves if it is moral.
According to the Source, the VI Code states "it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Government of the Virgin Islands to provide free transportation for school-age children, residing within and without the urban areas of the Virgin Islands, to the schools which they attend."
Morally the law seems clear - free transportation for students attending public schools. While Commissioner Simmonds and her legal advisors may be able to conjure up something else, I hope the people of the Virgin Islands are not held hostage to her short-sightedness.
A democratic government (especially one in such dire fiscal crisis) must make the difficult decisions as to which services it must(not would like to) provide.
One would hope that this administration, facing the challenges that it does, would make education a priority. By charging transportation fees, those most needing an education (the lower end of the economic ladder) are most adversely affected. How can one improve themselves without an education?
Hopefully Commissioner Simmonds would agree that education is the highway out of poverty – a situation all too many Virgin Islanders find themselves in. A free education should be something accessible to all, no matter their economic or social or ethnic status.
If the commissioner is willing to be honest with the people of the Virgin Islands, she would have to admit that this is just another stop-gap (not long-term) measure to deal with the real problem - the lack of government financing for public education.
Instead of looking at new ways to make the people of the VI pay for educating their youth, she should be looking at new ways of budgeting the money Virgin Islanders already pay to educate their youth; new ways of demanding that education be given priority over such things as hiring the Governor's family members (How much could be paid toward the $5 or $10 weekly charge from what the government pays for nepotism and patronage for the Turnbull Administration?).
Is hiring the governor's sister or niece more important than providing an education or transportation for the territory's youth? Is the $45,000 per year paid to the Lt. Governor's wife for her token role in tourism worth the number of children (140 Virgin Island children) who might not be able to afford to go to school next year because of the bus fees? What about the governor's sister? His niece or nephew? What about his other family members? Are Virgin Islanders benefitting from their outrageous salaries? Is this administration willing to make the same (or at a minimum some) sacrifices that they are demanding of the people who put them in office? It is clear they are not.
While I usually disagree with Senator Hansen's lawsuits (finding them self-serving and frivolous), I must support her on this issue. Senator Baptiste is
calling for negotiations with this administration but, as those who have come before him will note, they have little meaning. This administration will agree to anything in the short-term without considering the long-term consequences or financial effects.
To ad insult to injury, I found all too common that the Source noted that June Archibald (who, last year, received a major salary increase) did not return phone calls - something that the territory's media people did not find surprising.
How many children could receive transportation for a year for what Ms. Archibald received in a salary increase only to not return phone calls from (the media) the people she is hired to serve? Then (and only then) Commissioner Simmonds can go in front of the people of the territory and tell them - in all honesty - that every dollar that her department is being spent judiciously and in the best interest of the students (and not the
exempt personnel) only then can she ask the people to give more. If she's not up to being honest with the people of the territory and doing the job right,
Commissioner Simmonds should step down. Instead of Governor Turnbull firing his appointees for speaking out against policies that his administration, and
lackeys line Simmonds support, he should promote those who speak out in the best interest of the people of the VI. Unfortunately, administration officials and the people of the Virgin Island know that this administration will fire, without hesitation, anyone who speaks the truth of against current policy.