Education Minister Wycliffe Smith (standing) addresses MPs during the meeting on Monday.
PHILIPSBURG–While school boards in the country are allowed to charge parental contributions (school fees), they are not allowed to withhold report cards from parents due to non-payment of these fees.
Education Minister Wycliffe Smith made this clear during the continuation of an urgent plenary session of Parliament on Monday on the effects of the lump sum subsidy on Foundation for Academic and Vocational Education (FAVE) and School Board for Secondary Education SVOBE.
In response to a question from a Member of Parliament (MP) on whether boards are allowed to charge and mandate parents to pay fees, as education in St. Maarten is free, Smith explained that the ordinance on secondary education does not prohibit a school board from charging a parental contribution.
However, he said the admission, suspension or expulsion of a student cannot depend on the parental contribution. “So, in other words, school boards can request a parental contribution and are free to determine the amount of the contribution. However, students cannot be denied education and/or information/documents related to the progress of their education due to the non-payment of these contributions.”
He said if school boards withhold reports or books, etc., parents should report this to the Inspectorate of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. “School boards are not permitted to bar students from enrolling or obtaining required progress documents if contributions have not been made.”
Subsidised schools are schools that are under the control of a natural or private legal entity. In reality, most school boards are registered as foundations. The school board, as referred to in the Education Ordinance, is the legal, competent authority representing the Foundation. The law, in this case the Ordinance on Secondary Education, assigns a number of responsibilities, duties and competencies to the School Board, such as appointing and dismissal of personnel, including teachers.