Gatchalian assures LGUs can tap special fund for education programs

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday assured that local government units (LGUs) can tap the Special Education Fund (SEF) to help them implement their localized version of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) basic education learning continuity plan.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture,
said this is provided under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 which authorizes LGUs to use a portion of the SEF.

Under Section 4 of Bayanihan 2, the senator said the use of the SEF will be allowed to support alternative learning modalities, digital education and infrastructure, the purchase of equipment, materials, and supplies, including the printing and delivery of self-learning modules.

The SEF can also be used to put up infrastructures such as hand washing stations and could also be used for the purchase of public health supplies such as soap, alcohol, sanitizers, disinfecting solutions, thermometers, face masks, and face shields and other COVID-19 preventive equipment.

“Sa ating paghahanda para sa pagbubukas ng klase ngayong taon, nakita natin kung gaano kahalaga ang papel ng mga lokal na pamahalaan sa pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon sa gitna ng pandemya ng COVID-19 (In our preparation for the opening of classes this year, we recognize the important role of local governments in pursuing education in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic),” Gatchalian said.

The SEF, under Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991, is generated from an additional one percent tax on real property. It is released to local school boards and allocated for the operation and maintenance of public schools.

The fund is also used for the construction and repair of school buildings, facilities and equipment, educational research, purchase of books and periodicals, and sports development.

Though Bayanihan 2 would be in effect only until December 19, 2020, the senator said he is eyeing pushing for a long-term expansion on the use of the SEF through Senate Bill No. 1579 or the 21st Century School Boards Act, which he earlier filed.

He said this is to ensure that the expanded use of the SEF will cover salaries of public elementary and high school teachers, non-teaching, utility, and security personnel.

The proposed expansion of the SEF coverage also includes salaries of pre-school teachers, capital outlay for pre-schools, operation and maintenance of Alternative Learning System (ALS) programs, distance education classes and training programs.