George Town West candidate Ellio Solomon questioned government’s priorities on education spending, argued for a new focus on vocational training and said public schools should be desegregated.
Solomon made his comments on the Cayman Crosstalk radio show Wednesday. Incumbent David Charles Wight declined the invitation to attend, while Pearlina McGaw-Lumsden accepted but then was a no-show, and Kenrick Webster accepted but could not attend due to a last-minute “family emergency”.
“There’s a tremendous amount of funding [for education],” Solomon said. “The problem has simply been … this administration has spent a lot of money on school buildings. We have had 60, 90 and 100-something-plus million dollars being spent on schools.”
[Editor’s Note: See our analysis of school construction costs in Cayman.]
Solomon said those funds would have been much better directed toward increases in teachers’ pay and improvements to the curriculum.
“Buildings don’t teach kids, and we have proven that. If there is nothing else we have proven with this administration, it’s buildings don’t teach kids,” he said. “So the money is there; it’s just a matter of allocating and spending that money wisely.”
Solomon said there is a local stigma against vocational or technical training versus more academic subjects. He proposed creating a new school system that puts technical training first.
“I think to get rid of that stigma … we need to be able to create a school system that brings everybody in from a trade perspective and complements it with abstract. And I think if we can actually do that, we can actually end up with a lot of persons coming out that doesn’t have this stigma,” he said.
On the subject of school segregation, Solomon said he was “blessed” to attend public schools when non-Caymanians and Caymanians mixed.
“I really think that had a tremendous benefit for me,” he said.
“We have had a tremendous loss to our society by actually removing that and segregating things in the way that it has been. And bear in mind that that didn’t just have an impact on school learning, that also had an impact on the networking, and coming out of school and getting jobs also. I think we need to work to amend that problem seriously,” Solomon said.