ACT troops to Congress to demand bigger 2021 budget

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines called on the Lower House to substantially increase DepEd’s 2021 budget to ensure the school safety for learners and education workers, as well as to guarantee accessible quality education ‘amid and despite the pandemic.’

The group argued that the proposed P606.5 billion allocation for the agency is ‘not responsive and resilient’ to present and future crises, ‘as is the whole proposed 2021 national expenditure program of the Duterte regime.’

“Despite claims of pushing for a new normal, Duterte’s budget for education reflected more of the same insufficiency. Considering that the same state neglect we suffered for years mainly caused our inability to efficiently shift to remote learning and to safely and timely reopen schools this year, it’s appalling to see how little funds had been allocated to DepEd. Even more enraging is to find that the people’s money—instead of going to social services and aid—will be used to further infringe on our basic rights and endanger the lives of millions, and to line the pockets of the few,” criticized ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio.

Basilio took special note on the absence of provision to ensure school safety and secure the health and welfare of learners and education workers.

In particular, there was no budget allotment for the establishment of functional clinics with enough equipment, while budget for sanitation facilities remained scant.

ACT pushed for Congress to rechannel problematic allocations for repressive and war programs of the regime, and prioritize essential services such as education.

“There should be funding for much-needed school nurses which will require at least P16.9 billion to warrant a 1:1 nurse to school ratio. Every school district should also be granted at least 1,000 PPEs coming to around P3.5 billion. For the minimum safety requirements such as alcohol, disposable masks, face shields, and foot baths, DepEd will need an additional P9.7 billion. Education as frontliners must also be subjected to regular testing. Based on Philhealth costing, P7 billion can cover RT-PCR tests every 14 days for 10% of education workers,” detailed Basilio.

Finally, the group called on Congress to allocate at least P10 billion for a medical treatment fund for DepEd employees to may get infected with COVID-19.

Additionally, ACT demanded that funding for teaching and learning needs under DepEd’s BE-LCP must be ensured.

The group estimated additional allotment of P27 billion in order to provide laptops to every teacher, P15 billion to grant P1,500 internet allowance per month to all educators, and around P33.8 billion to provide gadgets to the most needy 5% of the 27.7 million estimated learners in basic education.