Education Minister Cole Simons today defended Government’s commitment to the development and education of young Bermudians.

Citing several investments contained in the most recent Budget, Mr Simons said: “The truth is that the Bermuda Government has made, and continues to make, great investments for the benefit of teachers and students.

In a statement released this afternoon, the Minister accused the Progressive Labour Party of misinforming the public.

“Do we have it right 100 per cent of the time? No, but the investments we have made represent the optimal commitment given the fiscal pressures we face, particularly with the massive debt burden we carry, now costing more than $180 million a year in debt interest payments,” he said.

Referring to the latest Budget estimates, he also noted the salaries and wages for substitute teachers, in addition to paraprofessionals, school maintenance and investments in school properties.

That list included:

* $2.318 million in salaries and wages increased by 3 per cent and 6 per cent respectively due to substitute teachers and paraprofessionals;

* $850,000 capital grant for campus-wide capital projects, including building upgrades; health, safety and security enhancements, technology improvements at Bermuda College;

* 50 per cent increase in Bermuda College financial aid budget;

* $3.283 million for the Department of Public Works for school maintenance;

* $1.07 million capital grant for works at CedarBridge Academy;

* $500,000 capital grant for school bathroom renovations;

* $1.128 million capital acquisition for computers, IT and furniture;

* $1.737 million for teacher training, scholarships, mature student awards and grants to external bodies;

* $35 million investment in preschools, primary schools and the Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy;

* $16.95 million investment into middle schools, including Sandys, TN Tatem, Dellwood, Whitney and Clearwater;

* $24.367 million in senior schools;

* $2.639 million on curriculum and assessment;

* $1.84 million in early childhood education;

* $15.481 million Bermuda College Grant.

“As Minister of Education, I can confirm that the education of our children is fundamental to producing educated, productive and positive citizens,” said Mr Simons.

“Education is fundamental to the future of the island, setting the direction we want to go. The education system, therefore, must be one that ensures students are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing society.

“Their progress in learning is strengthened when parents, teachers, principals, support staff and the broader community have a clear understanding of what must be done and what is being done to achieve Bermuda’s chosen future.

“Our investments this year support the Ministry of Education’s mission to provide strategic leadership, supervision and policy direction that supports effective teaching in an inclusive and progressive learning environment that improves learning and achievement for every child.”

Earlier this week, the PLP said: “Actions have consequences and this OBA government’s actions over these past four years would seem to show that education does not have the place in their agenda it should.”

The statement also asked: “How can our country hope to prosper when the next generation of Bermudians are being short changed by such leadership that continues to allow our children to go underequipped and mold ridden schools?

“The PLP believes we owe it to our children, educators and communities to ensure that the facilities we place them in are conducive to learning.”

The statement concluded by urging Bermuda’s electorate to elect a government that will make education a priority on July 18th.