By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
For the first time under the administration of Education Secretary Leonor Briones, the Department of Education (DepEd) confirmed that Special Education (SPED) was given funds in the 2020 national budget.
DepEd Undersecretary for Finance Service and Education Programs Delivery Unit Annalyn Sevilla, in an interview, said that the SPED was given P107 million in the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
Sevilla said SPED has P107 million in the 2020 budget – P100 million for the MOOE [Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses] and P0.7 million for capital outlay. While it welcomes the allocation – which was granted by the Congress for the first time under the current DepEd administration – she explained that approved funding is “way below” the original proposed budget of P500 million.
Given this, Sevilla admitted that this “may not be enough” to address all the challenges in SPED but it would “will help us review the policies” – among others.
Meanwhile, Briones is pushing the regulation of fees and rates charged by various institutions that offer SPED classes.
Majority of those that offer SPED are private institutions, Briones said. “Since these are specialized classes, the cost of sending a child with special needs to these schools is really high, it’s expensive,” she said.
SPED schools, Briones said, hire teachers that have expertise in special education and in handling children with special needs. These schools also offer individualized education program (IEP) and a wide range of services which also includes therapy sessions, among others.
While DepEd offers SPED program in public schools, Briones admitted that this remains a challenge due to the increasing number of students and low funding. “There has been an increase in numbers because children who were not diagnosed before are diagnosed now,” she said.
Currently, Briones noted that most of the SPED services are offered by private sector and since these are “very, very expensive” majority of it “cannot be afforded by the average Filipino” thus, she underscored the need for SPED rates being offered to be regulated.
Briones said that while DepEd continues to strengthen its SPED program, it would help if lawmakers approve a new legislation that would regulate fees and rates for private SPED providers. “This will make private SPED services more accessible to students who need it,” she ended.