Private school teachers decry ‘Bayanihan II’ budget allocation

“Too little, too few.”

This is how a group of private school teachers described the the financial aid and wage subsidy being proposed for them under the Bayanihan to Recover as One (BARO) Act of 2020 or “Bayanihan II.”

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Private Schools, in a statement Thursday, strongly reiterated its demands for “substantial and humane government assistance” to all affected private school teachers and personnel nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group submitted a petition paper dated August 13 to the Congress on their bicameral session to demand a “dignified financial aid” to teachers and personnel who were heavily affected by the pandemic due to the prevalent “No Work No Pay” scheme. 

ACT Private Schools also asked for support subsidies to private education institutions to “prevent further retrenchments” - especially to medium-sized schools. These demands constituted the proposed significant chunk of the Bayanihan II - with P24 billion for the financial aid alone. 

However, the group lamented that the House version of the bill only proposes to allocate P300 million which will be shared by all affected teaching and non-teaching personnel both in private and public schools in basic (elementary and secondary) and tertiary education levels.

In numbers, the group noted that only 37,500 to 60,000 personnel are expected to serve as beneficiaries should the government decide to give a one-time cash assistance of P 5,000 to P 8,000 from the proposed funding. 
“This allocation is deemed beyond inadequate, as it is not capable of providing an inclusive and effective financial support program even on the current figures of damage to the sector,” said ACT Private Schools Secretary General Jonathan Geronimo.

Geronimo explained that for over five months of quarantine due to COVID-19, numerous households from the affected sector of education have received no financial support from the government and are now starving out of poverty. “Most of them are forced to do sideline jobs which are typically susceptible for COVID-19 infection,” he said. “With all these unnecessary compromises, they are only left but a pittance which can’t barely support their necessities,” he added.

Citing statistics based on media reports, the group noted that 407, 757 teachers and staff were affected during the first month of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). “Furthermore, low enrollment percentage this school year prompts massive layoffs of academic personnel,” Geronimo said. “In fact, there are 119,819 private school teachers from 17 regions suffered from retrenchment last June these numbers are expected to exacerbate in the following months, as uncertainties of economic slump grows further,” he explained.

As the country grapples with immense economic loss because of COVID-19, ACT Private Schools reiterated its demands to the legislators to “provide assistance with dignity” - especially to the most marginalized sector like the teachers in private schools.

Geronimo said that the group is requesting for a six-month financial assistance to all affected private school personnel amounting to PhP 10,000 and a four-month wage subsidy program to private education institutions, shouldering half (Php 15,554) of the nationwide family living wage (Php 31,089) declared by IBON Foundation, an independent think-tank in the Philippines.