'Hurting' private schools, students ultimate losers in slashed 2022 senior high voucher fund

Published October 18, 2021, 10:48 AM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian on Monday, Oct. 18 said the Senior High School Voucher Program (SHS-VP) is in peril with its budget facing a looming decline of P8.7 billion for the next fiscal year.

Under the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA or national budget), P25.2 billion was allocated to the SHS-VP. This includes P11.5 billion under Unprogrammed Appropriations, P4.8 billion of which was already released by the Department of Education (DepEd) as of September 2021.

Under the 2022 National Expenditure Program (NEP), however, only P16.5 billion was allotted to the SHS-VP. With this projected budget, the number of beneficiaries is expected to decline by 33,883 compared to 2021.

The SHS-VP targets 1.38 million beneficiaries for fiscal year 2022, which requires a budget of P24.6 billion or P12.3 billion per semester. This will fund the 2nd semester of School Year (SY) 2021-2022 and 1st semester of SY 2022-2023. Based on the 2021 GAA, each voucher is valued at P17,793.

Under the 2021 budget, P5.9 billion is available for the 1st semester of SY 2021-2022, facing a shortfall of P6.7 billion. If this P6.7 billion-deficit is charged to the P16.5 budget for FY 2022, only P9.8 billion will be available, which will not be enough to fund even one semester of the SHS-VP.

The SHS VP is a financial assistance program that enables underprivileged but qualified senior high school students to study in private schools, state and local universities and colleges.

“We have to send a clear signal to our private schools because they are hurting, and reducing the budget of the SHS-VP will definitely send the wrong signal to our private schools,” Gatchalian said during the Senate panel hearing on DepEd’s proposed budget for 2022.

Gatchalian pointed out that ensuring adequate funding for the SHS-VP will also prevent the accumulation of payables to private schools, which are already struggling with more job losses incurred amid the COVID-19 pandemic due to a decline in enrollment rates.