18 April 2021 (Election 2021 results edition)
Weekly Current (archived version)
The Editor calls ‘Time Out!’ Where education might go under a new government. The biggest education ideas from the 2021 campaign. New LIFE initiative targets preschoolers. And more!
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
Patrick Brendel, Founder and Editor:
The Cayman Current is a non-profit public service journalism organisation focussed on improving education in the Cayman Islands. What I am about to say doesn’t strictly relate to Cayman’s education system — but I would be remiss in the “public service journalism” aspect of the Current’s mission if I didn’t provide some comments on, and some context to, the unfolding consequences of Wednesday night’s vote.
First, there is no indication that Cayman’s parliamentary system is dysfunctional — or, at least, functioning any worse or differently than it has over the past decade.
In other words, the discussions and dealings among victorious candidates that have taken place since the 14 April election are completely normal and in line with what happened after the previous 2 elections, which ultimately resulted in the formation of coalition governments that proved to be stable.
2013 election — Wednesday 22 May
- Out of 18 positions, the PPM captured 9 seats.
- On Saturday 25 May, PPM leader Alden McLaughlin announced the addition of Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, who had been Premier of the short-lived People’s National Alliance, overseeing a minority government since December 2012, following the ouster of then-Premier McKeeva Bush and the UDP government (of which O’Connor-Connolly had been a part).
- On Monday 27 May, Coalition For Cayman candidate Tara Rivers sought feedback from her West Bay constituents in a town hall meeting, and ultimately decided to join the PPM government as an independent.
- In exchange for joining the government, O’Connor-Connolly was made Speaker of the House, and Rivers (a freshman) was given a Minister position.
- On Tuesday 28 May, McLaughlin announced the makeup of the new PPM-led government.
- On Wednesday 29 May, the Legislative Assembly met and a majority of lawmakers formally chose the government.
- (In December 2015, former Coalition for Cayman candidate Roy McTaggart joined the PPM and the government.)
2017 election — Wednesday 24 May
- Out of 19 positions, the PPM captured 7 seats.
- On Friday 26 May, McLaughlin announced a deal with chief political rival Bush to form a coalition of 7 members from PPM, 3 from Bush’s Cayman Democratic Party, and 2 independents (Rivers and Austin Harris).
- Late Friday night, Bush announced he was dissolving that arrangement and had brokered an alternative deal for a government, including other independents such as Ezzard Miller, Arden McLean, Dwayne Seymour, Chris Saunders and Kenneth Bryan.
- Over the weekend, the Bush-led coalition crumbled. Other alternatives were reportedly explored, including having Miller and McLean teaming up with the PPM, or having a PPM-led coalition with Moses Kirkconnell as premier instead of McLaughlin.
- On Monday night, the original coalition announced by McLaughlin re-coalesced, with Seymour holding a public meeting with his Bodden Town West constituents and getting support to join the government in exchange for being given a Minister position. Bush would join the government as Speaker of the House.
- On Wednesday 31 May, the LA met and a majority of lawmakers formally chose the government.
2021 election — Wednesday 14 April
- Out of 19 positions, the Progressives captured 7 seats.
- On Thursday 15 April, independent Wayne Panton announced a coalition government of 10 independents.
- Later on Thursday, Progressives leader McTaggart announced a Progressives coalition consisting of 7 Progressives, ally Seymour and independents Isaac Rankine and Sabrina Turner.
- On Friday 16 April, Turner held a town hall meeting in her Prospect constituency, announcing she was rejoining Panton’s group.
- On Saturday 17 April, McTaggart and Panton held a brief meeting on the topic of a combined government, which apparently was unproductive.
- On Saturday, Rankine cancelled a public meeting with his East End constituency due to threats of violence on social media.
- As of today 18 April, there are reportedly 9 members of the Progressives coalition and 9 members of Panton’s group, with the balance of power potentially resting in the hands of uncommitted independent McKeeva Bush.
To quote from a 28 May 2017 Cayman Compass editorial written when the uncertainty had reached a crescendo:
“The perceived “fractures” in Cayman’s body politic, though, are less substantial than might be supposed given the deep divisions between some of our lawmakers. As we’ve seen during the campaign and throughout the modern history of our country, our populace is broadly united on issues, general ideologies, cultural and societal norms, and governmental priorities (education, employment, public safety, etc.).
In Cayman, political differences are, in the main, personality-based rather than policy-based. That paradigm makes for interesting arguments around the dining table, but it also makes us confident that, when a government finally coalesces, our country will continue to move forward together ….”
Seen in this context, the recent duelling announcements and shifting alliances — while they may seem unsettling — are absolutely normal.
There is no hint of ‘traitorous’ activity, no evidence of ‘unethical’ behaviour, and no proof of corruption. If anyone knows of any illegal activity that may be taking place, they should reach out to law enforcement — not to their friends on social media.
What has changed, and what is abnormal, is the declining health of Cayman’s news ecosystem, the amplification of online histrionics, and the absence of a disinterested voice of authority speaking from a foundation of facts and experience.
In the past several years, news outlets have closed, the number of journalists has decreased, and the breadth and depth of journalism have diminished. Into the resulting vacuum of discourse have rushed rumours, trivia, invective, and content created to attract attention, regardless of its relative importance or truthfulness.
I won’t dwell long on this. The harmful consequences of this trend have never been more apparent in Cayman than during and after the 14 April election, and will only grow more obvious with the continued erosion of objective, in-depth and professional journalism.
This is why we created the Cayman Current: to ensure that, regardless of what is occurring elsewhere in the media, Cayman’s community has access to the highest-quality journalism and information resources on this most-important subject of education.
To maintain and strengthen our organisation, and to increase our impact, we need your support. After this section, and before we get into the education news of the week, there will be a link that you can click to pledge a donation. Please support the Current, and support the kind of journalism that is vital to the continued vibrancy of our community.
— Contact me at email@example.com
Week In Review
At the moment we are writing this, the makeup of Cayman’s next government is unknown. Whichever group appears to have the ‘upper hand’ might change from the moment we send out the newsletter to the moment you read it, and then may change a few more times before the Cayman Islands Parliament meets on Wednesday.
(There are of course other possibilities, such as lawmakers being unable to agree on a majority government at all, or a government being formed and then lawmakers switching sides to form a new government. A new election could even be called. All of those developments are features of a parliamentary democracy.)
While anything could happen, we took a look at 2 scenarios for the future of education — one where the Progressives coalition follows plans set out in the party’s manifesto, and one where Wayne Panton‘s group forges their own path, guided by positions staked out on the campaign trail.
It’s reasonable to expect that a new Progressives government would largely continue the education policies that have been put in place over the last 8 years.
Highlights from the Progressives Manifesto:
- Complete the $170 million new John Gray High School project
- Build on school inspection regime
- Invest in more school facilities, including on Cayman Brac
- Roll out new school governance structures, in the form of a pilot school board project
- Reform early years’ education and develop new strategy for children under 5
The education policies of a new independent government are potentially more wide open.
Highlights from group leaders Panton and Saunders:
- Panton: Introduce ‘performance management’ for educators
- Panton: Inclusion for students with special education needs
- Saunders: “Education is not a one-size-fit-all model“
- Saunders: UCCI should be free for all Caymanians to attend, regardless of age
- Saunders: Misconception of public schools’ poor performance is used by employers as an excuse not to hire Caymanians
At their best, political campaigns are not only contests between people or parties, but contests of ideas. Just because a candidate isn’t successful at the polls doesn’t mean their proposals won’t be adopted by others, or provide useful ‘food for thought’ for policies that emerge later on.
We examined the boldest ideas from the 2021 campaign, including devolving the Ministry of Education’s powers to a statutory authority or an appointed ‘education czar’, giving a $5,000 annual scholarship each Caymanian for education costs, and providing vouchers to any Caymanian who wants to attend private school.
Other proposals include merging the public UCCI and ICCI, delaying the start of school by one year for young students, and creating national standardised test to measure student performance in all Cayman schools.
Local nonprofit LIFE (‘Literacy Is For Everyone’) is partnering with the Cayman Islands Early Childhood Association on a new initiative designed to foster a love of language in the country’s youngest children, even before they learn to read.
The collaborative programme ‘Thrive By Five’ is launching at the beginning of the next school year September 2021, with the pilot project starting at Precious Gems Preschool and sponsored by Deloitte Cayman Islands.
Thrive By Five has several components aimed at supporting students, teachers and families. That includes creating libraries for the preschools, training teachers and engaging families.
The programme will be rolled out in phases to a total of 8 early childhood care and education centres over a period of approximately 2 years.
More from the Current
- Just For Kids Preschool rated ‘Satisfactory’
- UCCI Graduation set for Saturday, 24 April
- New blockchain course offered by UCCI this summer
Around The Web
The Current is a central resource for education journalism by others, including regional and international news relevant to Cayman education. (Find our running collection of links here.)
- The Guardian (UK): A-levels should be replaced with a broader baccalaureate, says thinktank
- Miami Herald ($): ‘That hurts.’ Black students fail state tests in English, math, amid high graduation rates
- The Guardian (UK): Primary schools in England record steep fall in demand
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Virtual sessions to discuss signature schools
The Week Ahead
- Teachers air concerns about inspections, Covid-19 education gap, extended Christmas holiday