Group demands for a ‘pandemic-responsive, resilient’ education budget

Members of a federation of teachers on Tuesday trooped to the Lower House to urge lawmakers to “substantially increase” the budget of the Department of Education (DepEd) for 2021.

ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines is calling for a higher DepEd budget that would help ensure the school safety of students and education workers. ACT said that higher allocation for DepEd will also help “guarantee accessible quality education amid and despite the pandemic.”

ACT argued that the proposed P606.5 billion allocation for the agency is “not responsive and resilient” to present and future crises. “Despite claims of pushing for a new normal, Duterte’s budget for education reflected more of the same insufficiency,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said.

“Considering that the same state neglect we suffered for years mainly caused our inability to efficiently shift to remote learning and to safely and timely reopen schools this year, it’s appalling to see how little funds had been allocated to DepEd,” Basilio said. “Even more enraging is to find that the people’s money—instead of going to social services and aid—will be used to further infringe on our basic rights and endanger the lives of millions, and to line the pockets of the few,” he added.

Basilio pointed out the absence of provision to ensure school safety and secure the health and welfare of learners and education workers. In particular, he noted that there “was no budget allotment for the establishment of functional clinics with enough equipment, while budget for sanitation facilities remained scant.”

ACT is also calling on the Congress to re-channel “problematic allocations” and prioritize essential services such as education. In particular, the group is pushing a P16.9 billion funding to warrant a 1:1 nurse to school ratio; around P3.5 billion for every school district for the provision of least 1,000 Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs); and an additional P9.7 billion for the minimum safety requirements such as alcohol, disposable masks, face shields, and foot baths.

ACT said that education frontliners must also be subjected to regular testing. Citing Philhealth costing, Basilio noted that P7 billion can cover RT-PCR tests every 14 days for 10% of education workers. The group called on Congress to allocate at least P10 billion for a medical treatment fund for DepEd employees who may get infected with COVID-19.

To fully implement the Basic Education -Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) of DepEd, ACT said that P27 billion is needed in order to provide laptops to every teacher, P15 billion to grant P1,500 internet allowance per month to all educators, and around P33.8 billion to provide gadgets to the most needy 5% of the 27.7 million estimated learners in basic education.

“Likewise, bigger allotments should be given to the production of learning materials which will involve not only the printing of modules but also the procurement of textbooks that should be budgeted yearly and will continue to be a basic provision for the education agency,” Basilio ended.