By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Amid the challenges and recent controversies that hound the agency, the Department of Education (DepEd) welcomed the support of legislators for policy review and reforms in education.
Education Secretary Briones, during a recent organizational meeting with the House of Representatives’ Committee on Basic Education and Culture led by Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo, welcomed the support of several legislators who have “expressed their intent to help address gaps and push for reforms in the education sector.”
Briones apprised members on the Commission on Audit’s (CoA) observations and the agency’s responses and actions. “We committed that we will submit a report, and today we are submitting a full report on each of the 23 findings of COA,” she said. “Since the legislature looks at the policies of government, perhaps it is time to ask several policy questions that you may want to consider not only for education but for governance as well,” she added.
Briones also called for a review of laws that impact DepEd’s delivery of quality basic education. Aside from the earlier push for the review of the procurement law and the book development law, the DepEd also secured the support of several legislators in addressing perennial concerns on the special hardship allowance, teachers’ compensation, special education fund, and the strengthening of complementarity between the private and public sectors in education.
Briones also reiterated her support for an “equitable and sustainable” salary increase for government employees – which include public school teachers. In the Lower House, DepEd noted that a total of “36 bills have been filed in support of the call for additional compensation and benefits for public school teachers.”
DepEd, Briones said, is also “looking into how to increase the benefits of teachers” without creating “disparities” across the civil service and is proposing the creation of positions for Teachers IV, V, VI, and VII to “enable teachers to move to higher positions.” She also gave her support for bills that will “pave the way for higher teaching supplies allowance” and asked the committee to “consider the holistic approach” on this matter.
Briones noted that DepEd and the Congress “have been working on measures to augment the income of teachers.” She also cited that DepEd is also working with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to “capacitate teachers on personal financial management.”
She also acknowledged and conveyed the DepEd’s “appreciation and support” for the nine new bills that will help improve DepEd’s current Special Education (SPED) Program – through the institutionalization of inclusive education for children and youth with special needs.
Briones welcomed Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte’s motion to list and revisit “unfunded and underfunded” education-related laws that effectively leave the DepEd “unable to fully implement these measures.”
Briones signified her “commitment to work” with Congress in promoting the “social and economic welfare of teachers and in improving the Filipinos’ access to quality basic education.”