By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Filipino teachers are seeking an additional P600 billion in funding for the Department of Education to address the shortages in facilities for a safe return of students to schools.
“We are very much disappointed with the House version of the 2023 budget as it’s the same as the budgets enacted in the past years, which has placed our educational system in such a dismal state. It seems our lawmakers have not learned anything and were unbothered with the grave education crisis,” said ACT Deputy Secretary General Dana Beltran,
Last week, the House of Representatives approved the P5.27 trillion budget for 2023. However, while the education department will receive a higher budget (P633.3 billion in 2022 to P710.6 billion in 2023), critics said this is not enough to improve education access and in upholding the welfare of Filipino teachers.
The group proposes to add P600 billion to the P666 billion new appropriations to DepEd in 2023 and bring the DepEd budget to 5.3 percent of the projected 2022 gross domestic product, closer to the six percent recommendation of the United Nations for government spending on education.
In their proposal, teachers said it is imperative that the education department fund the following:
- P230 billion for the construction of about 92,000 classrooms
- P107 billion to provide each school with a registrar, nurse, guidance counselor, librarian, property custodian and security guard
- P77 billion for unpaid and new teachers’ benefits
- P61 billion for hiring 147,000 new teachers
- P46 billion for laptop for teachers and computer packages for schools
- P30.8 billion for health facilities, supplies and other measures for safe face-to-face classes
- P 13.5 billion for new armchairs/desks; and
- P7 billion for textbooks
“We urge our senators to open their eyes to our realities and see that bold steps in government spending to education are needed to change the course of our declining education system,” said Beltran.
The education budget was recently put under scrutiny following the P150-million intelligence funds for Vice President Sara Duterte in her capacity as the education secretary. This amount, she said, was necessary to have “very good intelligence and surveillance because you want to target specific issues and challenges.”
The teachers group also expressed their worries that the proposed intelligence funds for Duterte, as education secretary, will remain in the 2023 budget.
“We worry as well with Senator Angara’s statement that this confidential fund will not face objection in Senate as a courtesy to the Vice President. We hope they show some courtesy as well to 24 million learners and about one million teachers who suffer from lacking learning needs everyday,” said Beltran.
In an earlier statement, ACT said the P150 million intelligence can be better utilized to “fill in the many shortages in learning needs.”
ACT Chairperson Vladimer Quetua said the budget “can go a long way in providing for the lacking learning and teaching materials that hamper education recovery.”
He also expressed concerns that the budget may be used to hold seminars that red-tag teachers, students, and their families.
“If any, these confidential funds can only accomplish one thing: trample on our basic rights to privacy, to organization, and free expression. Our schools are not battlegrounds. They are supposed to be safe spaces for learning which are now embattled with a deep crisis. We call on the government to address our concrete problems that hinder education recovery and bring its wars elsewhere,” said Quetua.(RVO)