By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Private school groups on Tuesday warned that higher salaries for public school teachers could lead to “further marginalization” of teachers in private schools.
“We do not object to increasing the pay of salaries of public school teachers, but to the further marginalization of teachers in the private schools,” said Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) Managing Director Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada.
COCOPEA, the largest organization of private schools in the country, raised this concern following the recent pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte on the salary increase of public school teachers by “about 35 percent”. It pointed out that the disparity between the salaries of public and private school teachers has continued to widen over the years.
‘Real’ salary of teachers
Meanwhile, Estrada cautioned the government on maintaining “competitive neutrality” and how it can adversely affect the systems of education in the country.
Competitive neutrality, Estrada explained, is a “recognized principle in competition law that the government should be careful in its interventions that affect the market adversely creating unfair competition or unlevel playing field.” He noted that “government supported, controlled or funded entities should not have competitive advantage over private entities on the basis solely of government ownership and control.”
Estrada explained that in terms of salaries, teachers in private schools are “determined by the education sector and market forces.” He noted that the ability to pay the teachers’ salaries was determined by “a school’s enrolment size, prompt tuition collection, and other administrative and regulatory costs” thus, the salaries of the private school teachers “reflect the real salary of teachers.”
Meanwhile, Estrada said that the salary of teachers in the public school system was legislated. “As it is now, the disparity in pay between the public school teacher and the private school teacher is already so wide that licensed teachers migrate hastily to the public schools whenever a teacher item becomes available,” he added.
“Imagine the impact of this proposal of the government to increase to at least P35,000 the entrant salary of public school teachers and closing its eyes on the private school teachers and the inability of the schools to cope with such artificial increase in pay?” Estrada asked.
COCOPEA clarified that while it does not object to increasing the pay of salaries of public school teachers, the government should also implement initiatives to help the private schools and its teachers.
“In recognition of competitive neutrality and the Constitutional complementarity in education, there are many ways to have counterpart legislation for private school teachers,” Estrada said. This, he noted, may include increasing the Teachers Salary Subsidy (TSS) under the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) Act to a “substantial amount closer to the salaries of public school teachers.”
Estrada noted that the government may also opt to expand the Teacher Salary Subsidy (TSS) to teachers in Senior High School (SHS) or create a “fund for subsidy to qualified private school teachers.”
Earlier, COCOPEA also called the government “preserve the complementarity” of public and private institutions in the delivery of education by “maintaining the necessary budget” for government subsidies to students and teachers in private education.
In the proposed budget for 2020, there was almost Php 1 billion budget cut for the subsidy for private schools. As per DepEd, the budget that was allocated for the Government Assistance Subsidy (GAS), formerly called GATSPE, has been reduced by 2.93% — from P32.12 billion in the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA) to P31.18 billion in the 2020 National Expenditure Program (NEP). Originally, DepEd said that it proposed P52 billion to fund GAS next year.
Under the GAS is the Educational Service Contracting (ESC) Scheme, which is one of the forms of assistance to high school students. “It is worth stressing that when private schools participate in the government’s duty to provide education, it eases from the government the cost and burden of hiring more teachers and building more classrooms and facilities in the public schools, and it allows diversity of schools that students may choose from,” Estrada explained.
Lower budget for GAS, Estrada noted, may also affect teachers in the ESC participating schools that receive the TSS. Given this, COCOPEA reiterated its appeal to reconsider the budget cut in the implementation of various government assistance programs to teachers and students in “recognition of the private education sector as a key partner in the delivery of accessible and quality basic education.”