Wed | May 22, 2019

Alumni contributions to church-run schools don't belong to Gov't - Baston

Published:Wednesday | March 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
From left: Archbishop Emeritus Donald Reece, Anton Thompson, Grace Baston.

Grace Baston, principal of Campion College, a Roman Catholic-run institution, has sounded a warning that the easiest way to shut down contributions from donors and alumni is to indicate that those funds are owned by the Government.

Her comments came against the background of claims by the National Council for Educational Leadership, an agency of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, that monies generated by government educational institutions are public funds.

She said for years this had been a recurring issue, with the Government claiming that all monies held in the name of the school are public funds.

"The fastest way to shut down your donors and benefactors with whom you are in partnership for what we call 'mission advancement' - getting what you want done in your school - is to send a signal that their monies are government funds. It has enormous implications for us," Baston reasoned during a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum at the newspaper's North Street offices in Kingston.

The forum was organised to mark Peter Espeut's 25th anniversary as a Gleaner Columnist. Baston and Espeut are also members of the Ecumenical Education Committee, which was set up to provide support for church-run institutions locally.


Private money, not public funds - principal draws on 2006 attorney general's opinion


At a workshop hosted by the National Council for Educational Leadership in January for school principals, Grace Baston, principal of Campion College, said she was told by a senior technocrat that once the school receives funding from the Consolidated Fund, any additional monies it received on behalf of the Government were public funds.

However, Baston disclosed that she challenged this claim in 2006 when her school was carrying out construction with funds donated by parents.

She said the education ministry had stipulated that monies donated by parents were public funds and that the school had to use the Financial Administration and Audit Act to account for it.

Baston said that the opinion of the attorney general was sought on the matter in 2006. The attorney general had put the issue to rest, declaring that such donations were not public funds, but private money, said Baston.

"This is not an excuse for not rigorously accounting for every cent of that money," she noted.

In his comments, Espeut wanted to know whether monies pulled in from a school barbecue could be labelled state funds. "If the past students give money towards the Manning Cup team. [Does] that become public funds?" he questioned.

Meanwhile, Professor Emeritus Errol Miller expressed the view that funds raised by government schools belonged to the State, while monies generated by church-run schools belonged to those institutions.

"You cannot extend what applies to government-owned institutions to all institutions," said Miller.