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Senate Plans Hearing on Education Compliance


June 25, 2005 – V.I. Senators will meet in a special session July 7 to discuss the V.I. Department of Education's problems with the U.S. Department of Education.
The U.S. department informed the V.I. department that it would receive no more federal grant money after July 1 unless it hired a third party to oversee the grants.
(See "Feds Order Education Department to Hire Financial Overseer").
Sen. President Lorraine L. Berry said Saturday, "This is a very important issue and we want to make sure everyone involved can be there." The meeting had originally been set for June 30. However, Berry said that Bernice Turnbull, commissioner of finance, and Ira Mills, director of the Office of Management and Budget, would both be off island that day.
According to a press release from Berry's office, the meeting will focus on issues surrounding the decision to add special conditions to all education grants subject to the compliance agreement and awarded after July 1. The meeting will be at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall at 10 a.m. July 7.
"The U.S. Department of Education's decision to withhold any pending or new awards subject to the Compliance Agreement until a fiduciary agent is contracted by the government of the Virgin Islands, places the Virgin Islands in a very precarious budgetary position as we prepare for budget hearings next week," Berry stated.
Besides Turnbull and Mills, invited testifiers include Noreen Michael, education commissioner; Marc Biggs, property and procurement commissioner; and Judy M. Gomez, Board of Education chairwoman.
This meeting change was part of a shuffle last week that includes trying to get an Economic Development Authority bill passed in an upcoming Senate session scheduled for July 11 and 12.
The Committee on Economic Development, Planning and Environmental Protections has scheduled a June 29 meeting.
This will give the committee an opportunity to forward to the Rules and Judiciary Committee an EDA bill that failed to move forward last week when the economic development committee lost its quorum.
All bills have to go through the Rules Committee before being forwarded to the full senate. The Rules Committee meets July 6.

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