By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Amid challenges in the implementation of the Senior High School Voucher Program (SHS VP) for School Year (SY) 2019-2020, the Department of Education (DepEd) assured the public of its “commitment to continue” with the program.
DepEd issued an official statement in response to various queries on SHS VP for SY 2019-2020. The Department said that it is the mandate of the DepEd to “uphold the right of every Filipino to quality basic education by providing access, whether through public programs or through arrangements based on the principles of public-private partnership.”
Consistent with Section 10 of Republic Act (RA) No. 10533 (An Act Enhancing the Philippine Basic Education System by Strengthening its Curriculum and Increasing the Number of Years for Basic Education, Appropriating Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes), DepEd said that it “will continue to engage” the services of private educational institutions and non-DepEd public schools offering SHS through the voucher program under the Expanded Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (E-GASTPE).”
DepEd explained that pending the issuance of the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA), the national budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 is deemed reenacted. “The reenacted budget shall remain in force until such time that the GAA is passed into law by Congress,” it said.
Subsequently, DepEd said that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has released Circular Letter No. 2019-01 (Release of Funds for the First Quarter of FY 2019) stating that “in the absence of the 2019 GAA, the budgetary support to cover the operations of all national agencies is equivalent to the appropriations based on the FY 2018 GAA (R.A. No. 10964, or the “General Appropriations Act 2018,” as reenacted) or on the FY 2019 National Expenditure Program (NEP)—whichever is lower.”
“Under the FY 2018 GAA, the total appropriation for the SHS VP in private and non-DepEd schools is P14.4 billion, while the 2019 NEP is P20.3 billion,” DepEd said. “As a result, the program is short of funds equivalent to P5.9 billion. In view of this, the application for the SHS VP for SY 2019-2020 is yet to be opened pending the issuance of the FY 2019 GAA,” it added.
DepEd, however, clarified that Grade 10 completers in SY 2018-2019 who fall under the following categories are automatically eligible and do not need to apply for vouchers: 1) all Grade 10 completers in public schools operated by DepEd; 2) all Grade 10 completers in state and local universities and colleges (SUCs and LUCs); and 3) all Grade 10 completers in private schools who are ESC grantees.
“These automatic voucher recipients shall be accommodated in the program upon enrollment in any SHS VP-participating school,” DepEd ended.
However, those who are not automatic beneficiaries – such as Grade 10 completers from private schools who are not ESC grantees – have to apply for the voucher program. If qualified, the learners or the Qualified Voucher Applicants (QVA) will receive a subsidy on their tuition and other school fees when they apply to schools that offer the SHS Program.
The amount of the vouchers will depend on the category of the QVA and the location of the school where the students will enroll in. Based on the DepEd Order No. 60, series of 2017 or the “Guidelines on the Application for the Senior High School Voucher Program for School Year 2018-2019” SHS voucher amounts are as follows (depending on the category of the QVA): Php 22,500; Php 18,000; and Php 11, 500 in the National Capital Region (NCR). In Non-NCR highly urbanized cities (HUCs), vouchers amount to Php 20,000; Php 16,000; and Php 10,000. In other locations, vouchers amount to Php 17,500; Php 14,000; and Php 8,750.
The SHS VP is one of the “several initiatives of the government to make basic education accessible and affordable for Filipino learners nationwide.” It is a financial assistance program to enable qualified Grade 10 completers to pursue their desired SHS education in private schools, state universities and colleges (SUCs), and local universities and colleges (LUCs) that offer SHS.