Because they are paying for each student in the public school, then provide a subsidy for each student in the private schools.
Let me say I am against public private partnership when it comes to the management of our public assets especially when the Government is in a financial position to do it themselves. However, when it comes to the investment in education of our children, I believe we should explore and expand a public private partnership. I don’t think Government should invest in the building of any additional schools but rather partner with the private institutions or encourage the establishments of more private schools.
While the Government is not obligated to provide funding to any private institution as their priority is funding the public schools. However, the situation in the Turks and Caicos is unique in that most students in the Public Schools particularly on the island of Providenciales are not locals. Furthermore, the ratio of students to teachers in the public schools is very high. Therefore, many parents have enrolled their children in private schools.
Student population in elementary and secondary institutions
There are approximately 7,000 students registered between the public and private elementary and secondary schools. 4,500 are at the public school spread across 11 elementary schools and 5 secondary schools. The remaining 2,500 students are enrolled in 22 private schools in the Turks and Caicos. Of the 4,500 students in public schools, 250 of them are with special needs.
Public School cost
Based on the TCIG Budget for 2022/23, the unaudited actual expenditure for primary education was $2,812,571 for 2021/2022 and the budget for 2022/2023 is $3,043,884. Meanwhile the unaudited actual expenditure for secondary education $9,165,228 of which $2,596,900 is for Clement Howell. The budget for the secondary education expenditure for 2022/23 is $11,016,159 of which $3,308,812 is Clement Howell and $2,313,312 is Long Bay. These figures exclude the expenditure for the education department and administrative zone which is a further $10,678,654.
The total budget therefore on elementary and secondary education for 2022/23 is $14,060,043. There are 4,500 students so if we divide $14,060,043 by 4,500, the result is $3,124.45 per student. Now let us include the education department and the administrative zone, the total for education would be $24,738,697 and the price per student is $5,497.49.
What if the Government had to accommodate the 2,500 students in the private schools? If we were to use the ratio above, 7,000 students would cost the Government $21,871,150 without the education department and administrative zone. If we include the education department and administrative zone, the cost would be $38,482,430.
Current Public Private Partnership
The Government currently has a subsidy program in place whereby students that are on the waiting list for the public schools, the Government will pay the private school the cost of an untrained teacher which is around $2,000 per month and the parents pay only between $100 to $150 a month to that private school.
The Government also has a voucher system providing families in need to pay for their children at private schools.
The expenditure for the above two items is represented in the budget line item, grants to private schools and amounted to $1,130,716 for the year end 2021/2022 and for 2022/2023, the budget is $1,072,600.
The Proposed Public Private Partnership Model
The school fees are very high in the Turks and Caicos and quite frankly, I don’t know how some parents are able to pay school fees. In fact, some parents were not paying the school fees to the private institution and consequently schools such as TCI Middle was forced to close its doors. I am not sure about the financial situation at Ashely Learning Center, a private school that caters to special needs individuals, but that school recently closed its doors.
While I do like the voucher system described above, I think the Government should eliminate the current structure and do either one of the following
- Provide a subsidy to all private schools for $5,500 for each student. The $5,500 is based on the average price of $5,497.49 calculated above. Furthermore, the Government should make an agreement with the private schools that they will not increase their school fees. However, the parents will pay the difference between the $5,500 and the private school fees. If the school fees at the private schools are less than $5,500, then the Government should not pay $5,500 but rather pay the lower school fees which means the parents will not have to pay anything.
- Alternatively, the Government can provide a subsidy of $5,500 to the private schools for locals only. However, is this option fair given that the Government is paying for 4,500 students in the public schools of which 70% of the students there are non-Turks and Caicos Islanders.
I know that this recommendation of providing subsidy to the private schools will cost the government an additional $13,750,00 (5,500 x 2,500), but it will certainly ease a burden on parents and increase a strong relationship between the Government and the Private Schools.
What if there were no private schools? Wouldn’t the Government have to provide educational access to all 7,000 students? Furthermore, if the Government is paying $17,325,00 (3150*5500) for 3,150 (4,500*70%) non-Turks and Caicos Islanders in the public schools, then there should be no issue with subsidizing for 2,500 students in the private schools.
Believe it or not, the existence of the private schools is a significant help to Government. If the Government had to accommodate 7,000 students, they would have to invest in more buildings and perhaps incur more expenses.
Obviously, the Government must ensure that these private schools are up to standards and meet the requirements that Government has for its public schools.