Former education councilor Winston Connolly has acknowledged he does not send his own children to government schools because he does not believe standards are high enough.
He said the level of government schools needs to improve so that parents will choose private schools only on religious grounds.Mr. Connolly, speaking during a Legislative Assembly debate last week on school capacity, called for the “desegregation of schools” and the opening of new charter schools.
“I am a member of this government and I have chosen not to put my children in the school that I went to, which is Savannah Primary. I have chosen to put them in another school. Let’s just get it out there.
“As a parent, I want to ensure my children have the best access to education, intervention and all the other things that we are not currently providing, in my opinion, in government schools.
“I can’t take that chance and I won’t apologize to anybody for what I do as a parent for my kids.”
He challenged legislators on all sides to work together to create a government school system that parents would be happy to send their children to.
“As a parent, I want to ensure my children have the best access to education, intervention and all the other things that we are not currently providing, in my opinion, in government schools.”
“I think the litmus test for all of us in this room is that we should try to say we need to go back to the days of when the choice between a public and private school was either religion or the different veins that you are going to, either the U.K. or the U.S. Until we get to that stage, we haven’t accomplished what we should be setting out to do in education.”
Mr. Connolly, an independent legislator who served with the Progressives-led government as a councilor in the Ministry of Education before switching to the opposition benches, said a bipartisan plan is needed that would integrate the children of Caymanians and foreign workers in new schools.
He said Cayman needs to partner with the private sector to grow school capacity and to improve the standards in schools generally.
“We need to desegregate our schools,” he said. “It is ludicrous to think that when our kids finally interact at 18 or 19 in the workplace that they are suddenly going to come together and hold hands and understand each other culturally. We are setting ourselves up for a lot of social problems.”
He added, “We need to add capacity. The things we want to do as a country will no doubt include more people coming here, especially the type of people we want to attract. Not all people coming to these shores can afford private schools. Some of them will want and need to put their children into public schools.
“Private schools are at capacity, they have waiting lists; public schools are nearing capacity.
“We don’t, as a country, have the money to build the school infrastructure that we need and to replace some that are in bad need of replacing.
“We need to continue discussions about public-private partnerships and actually bring them to fruition.
“Cayman is still a very attractive place, but our education system needs to be equally attractive.”