Another win for teachers
Joint select committee accepts proposal for JTC bill to have tiered penalty system for offences
GREEN... If you do not renew your legal certification, you ought not to be practising

THE joint select committee (JSC) reviewing the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) bill has accepted the proposal from the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) for a tiered penalty system to be applied to a number of offences in the legislation, which is now being amended.

This is the second JTA recommendation which the committee has agreed on, as it reviews the matrix of submissions which have been made from stakeholders in the education system over the months.

The offences are: teaching without a licence; pretending to have a licence; and obtaining a licence by fraud, misrepresentation, and aiding and abetting; or giving false information to the Council, as set out in clause 24-26 of the bill.

The JTA had argued in May when it appeared before the JSC, that the proposed fine of $500,000 across the board for these offences, is too excessive, as teaching without a licence, should not be treated equally with the other more egregious offences.

At its meeting on Thursday, the majority of members of the committee agreed that there should be some separation in the level of penalties, with fraud attracting the most severe penalty, but at the same time, Member of Parliament for South West St Elizabeth Floyd Green — and Government senator Natalie Campbell Rodrigues, who agreed with him — were adamant that the legislation must be clear that practising without a licence is a punishable offence. Green stressed that it should not seek to account for different scenarios in which individuals end up not being in possession of a licence.

"If you do not renew your legal certification, you ought not to be practising. I believe we can find mid-ground in an administrative process, but the legislation has to be clear that if you practise without a licence, this is an offence. If your driver's licence expires and you fail to go and renew it knowing very well that on your birthday your licence will expire, when the police stops you, there is no grace period in relation to your driver's licence as opposed to other things, " Green said, referring to section 24 of the bill.

He said the administrative remedy on the JTC end would be to allow people to apply to renew their licence long before expiration, to avoid a situation where they do not have an up-to-date licence.

There was a suggestion that the penalty for fraud should be moved to a maximum of $1 million, but no new figures have been agreed. The JTA's proposal is for the $500 maximum fine to be retained for the offences of fraud, and giving false information to the Council; while pretending to have a licence, should attract a maximum fine of $300,000, and practising without a licence $200,000.

Demonstrating examples of potential situations where teachers may fail to renew their licences, but not with criminal intent, Government senator Kavan Gayle noted that these situations could include administrative delays by the JTC, or unforeseen crises such as a weather event. "There ought to be a separation in terms of the treatment, we can determine the extent of the action later on. There are circumstances that could have caused a teacher not to have met the requirement of a renewal date, and that teacher ought not to be treated in this excessive manner," he said.

Tova Hamilton, MP for northern Trelawny, agreed in principle with a tiered penalty system, but said an administrative rather than judicial penalty should be applied — such as higher fees for late applications — in a situation where a person failed to apply within the specified time frame for renewal. "We don't want to criminalise somebody because they haven't applied for a licence on time."

"We would have to therefore indicate that it would have to be someone who hasn't applied within a particular time stipulated within the legislation. But do we really want to fine somebody $500,000 for applying [after] it [their licence] has expired? It raises a lot of concerns," she said. At the same time, she agreed that potential situations, such as a crisis where replacement teachers are urgently needed, cannot be legislated.

HAMILTON... we don't want to criminalise somebody because they haven't applied for a licence on time
BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter

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