Despite a government surplus and the promise last year of a 1 Sept. wage increase for teachers, Education Ministry officials now say teachers won’t get the expected bump in salary for another year.
The ministry has not provided an explanation for the delay, despite several requests.
Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly announced a small increase in teachers’ pay at a gathering of all government educators in August 2018. It was the first of two phases designed to bring the minimum teacher salary to $5,000 per month and was implemented on 1 Sept. of that year.
The second phase would kick in 1 Sept. 2019, O’Connor-Connolly told the gathering. It would complete a promise she made shortly after taking the post of minister in 2017.
“We’re in a financial position to meet more of the needs in a short span than previously,” she said after last year’s announcement.
Speaker of the House McKeeva Bush said at the time that he was happy to see some of the government surplus going to education.
“For years, some of these changes have been talked about,” Mr. Bush said.
“We have been stymied in one way or another. (Now) the budget will sustain the increase.”
There is an even larger government surplus this year.
In August, government announced a $201 million surplus compared to the $122 million surplus that had been budgeted for the first six months of the year. The $499 million collected in levies, duties, fees and government charges in the first half of the year was 5% greater than for the same period in 2018.
When asked about the delay, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education denied the second phase of the salary increase had been promised this year.
“There was no change, as the original statement indicated over the course of the Minister’s term the salaries would be increased for relevant persons to $5,000,” spokeswoman Patrice Beersingh wrote in an email.
However, O’Connor-Connolly not only set the 1 Sept. 2019 date for phase 2 of the salary increase in her remarks to teachers before the start of last year’s school term, she made the same statement in the Legislative Assembly a few days later.
“Last year, in August, I gave the commitment to increase teachers’ salaries to at least CI$5,000 per month during this administration,” O’Connor-Connolly said in a statement to Legislative Assembly members on 6 Sept. last year, referring to comments she’d made in 2017.
“In the first phase, which begins this September 2018, teachers will have an increase to a minimum of CI$4,300 per month. In the second phase (September 2019), teachers will have an increase to a minimum of CI$5,000 per month.”
But in her address to educators last month, she told teachers the second phase would be implemented in August 2020. She did not provide a reason for the delay and did not acknowledge there had been a change to the original date of the increase.
Reaction from the teaching community is hard to gauge.
Two school principals said there had been no complaints on the issue from staff members. In a Facebook conversation that appeared to be between two teachers, one called the delay “cruel”, noting that individuals had been planning budgets based on the expected increase.