Education Grants

Two billion of our tax paying dollars are currently being distributed to parents of students attending public schools across the country via $10,000 vouchers. Around 188,000 families are expected to benefit from this cash boost whether they need it or not.

While I appreciate any form of assistance to the masses it is always very important to review the entire scheme in order to improve or find alternative methods of assistance. With this in mind here are my initial reviews and recommendations.

Being involved with the education system as a student, parent and teacher, I have seen particularly low parent participation in their children’s education. This is evident by low turnouts at PTA meetings. This grant saw record numbers of parents visiting the schools. The opportunity should have been taken to create an interaction between the teacher and parent(s) of each student as a qualifying grant criteria. I have heard of instances where parents indicated that they only showed up to collect the grant and really have no interest in their child’s performance.

Since this is ‘free money’, the likelihood that it will be well spent is questionable. How long will $10,000 last? It would be great to do some research to indicate how the funds were actually used. If the program becomes an annual exercise and not just a one-off deal, I would propose altering it as follows.

The two ways I would recommend the two billion should be spent annually are by raising the income tax threshold or to raise the wages of teachers.

Raising the income tax threshold from $50,000 to $53,000 will result in all taxpayers saving around $10,000 in tax payments annually. Not only would they have had to work to incur this savings, making it more valuable than a giveaway, it would also encourage an increase in compliance with Guyana’s tax laws by higher income declaration and increasing participation in the tax system.

For the purpose of this article I will assume a ratio of 19 students to every teacher, which results in a figure of 10,000 teachers in our public school system. I will have to confirm this figure, since my internet research did not result in finding the actual number. If the two billion were to be used as a salary increase for these 10,000 teachers, each one would benefit from an additional $17,000 on a monthly basis. First of all, this would be much easier to administer than the current system of million dollar billboards and lining up (which reminds me of some of the 1970/80 stories I keep hearing about). This $17,000 salary increase would be around 25% higher than what teachers are currently earning. I believe that their performance and by extension their student’s performance will increase, if even by 5%. We can attract more professionals to the trade and competition for teaching jobs will also increase performance. As a private sector servant, I would actually propose using the $17,000 as an incentive. Setting monthly or annual goals for performance improvement in order to qualify. Imagine if, using a fair assessment system, a teacher raises the performance of her class by over 5% to qualify for a $200,000 year-end bonus.

I would propose the same for our police officers and nurses, since these are among the core services driving social development. I can imagine paying criminals $10,000 to improve their lives or patients not to get sick.

There are several other ways in which I think the two billion dollars can be better spent, but the two outlined above are my front-runners. I encourage you to think of ways in which we can get value for money and propose same. Remember, that it is your money being spent, well given away, in this case.

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