The Alliance of Concerned Teachers called on lawmakers today to allocate an additional P136.6 billion for the Department of Education in 2021 to cover critical items to ensure the delivery of safe, quality and accessible education, as the Lower House hears today the agency budget for next year.
The group also called for the restoration of the P2.69 B cut in the School Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE), as well as the budgets for Special Education, World Teachers Day (WTD) Incentive, and medical allowance which were removed in the 2021 proposed budget.
“We appeal to our lawmakers to end the teachers’, students’ and parents’ nightmarish predicament under the newly-opened distance learning program mainly borne out of lack of sufficient funding. Use your mandate to make things right for the education sector and the future our country,” urged Raymond Basilio, ACT Seccretary-General.
Basilio said that proposed P605.74 B DepEd budget by the Duterte administration in 2021 is ‘unresponsive’ to the needs of education in the pandemic context as it lacked ample provisions for personnel, devices, learning resources and health protection mechanisms that are needed in blended learning, while it bore cuts on critical programs.
Retooling Education Basilio explained that 92.5% of or P126.39 B in their proposal is meant for teaching and learning resources and techniques which are needed in retooling education to respond to the pandemic situation.
He pushed for the full provision of 1:1 student to module set ratio, laptop and internet allowance for every teacher, devices and internet allowance for the poorest 5% of students, and hiring of 100,000 community tutors to assist the students who have no access to gadgets and who lack available and capable adult supervision, especially the children who cannot learn independently.
“It is saddening that instead of providing for these critical items to enable learning continuity, especially for the poor, the Duterte government only wants to provide for less than 1/3 of the needed budget for module printing, while there are no provisions for devices and internet allowance for teachers and learners, nor for the hiring of community tutors,” revealed Basilio.
Ensuring School Safety Basilio criticized the 9.03% proposed cut in the School MOOE in 2021, which he said has proved vital in the provision of the barest minimum health standards in schools as the country prepared for this year’s school opening.
“The DepEd has referred to the School MOOE as if it is an inexhaustible resource, all the time invoking the fund whenever teachers ask for funding for school opening needs. It must be increased significantly, instead of slashed, to ensure the availability of sanitation and health personnel, equipment and supplies in schools,” Basilio asserted.
Basilio highlighted as well the need to allot funds for the hiring of 2,000 nurses to achieve the one nurse per DepEd district ratio, which he said is already a very modest demand.
ACT proposes for additional P1.71 billion budget to cover all of these preventive health mechanisms in schools.
Protecting Personnel Welfare Basilio called on the lawmakers’ attention to the rising cases of COVID 19 infection among DepEd personnel, citing the report it received that a total 273 teaching and non-teaching personnel have been infected in Region IV-A alone.
“Our education personnel are central in education delivery, it is through their sacrifices in filling in the shortcomings of the government that school opening became possible. Education will discontinue if our teachers get sick and die in the performance of their duties, this is how important it is to protect our education forntliners,” stressed Basilio.
ACT proposes for the allotment of P8.55 billion to fund the health screening and mass testing for DepEd personnel, medical fund for free treatment, provision of personal protective gear, hazard pay for community-based duties, and the restoration of the WTD incentive and medical allowance, among others.