/ 15 September 2021

THE ALLIANCE of Concerned Teachers asked Congress to provide a bigger budget for the education sector.

The group, along with other education stakeholders, called for funding for the safe reopening of schools in low-risk areas and for the various modalities of distance learning.

It urged legislators to “do right by the people” and use Congress’ power of the purse to ensure that resources will go to essential services like education and health.

“Malapit nang maging record-holder sa buong mundo ang Pilipinas sa pinakamahabang saradong mga paaralan sa panahon ng pandemya, kaya nakakagalit na wala pa rin sa panukalang pondo ng DepEd sa 2022 ang laan para sa ligtas na pagbubukas ng mga eskuwelahan,” Raymond Basilio, the group’s secretary general, said.

“So we’re calling on our duly-elected officials to heed the people’s call for an education budget that is truly responsive to our needs,” he added.

The group lambasted the government’s “clear lack of plans to safely reopen schools .”

ACT deplored the reduced budget for school health facilities.

It said that it was also unclear if the hiring of school nurses will be funded in the budget proposal.

ACT said that two of the previous sources of funds for the production of modules will not get a significant increase despite reports of shortages resulting in as much as a 1:5 student to module ratio in certain areas and schools turning to loans to cover the costs of such production. Also, the provisions for flexible learning options will suffer a slash of P1.4-billion or 8.43 percent, and zero increase for textbook and other instructional materials at P963.3 million. The budget for the indigenous people’s education program was also slashed by P107.6 million or 67.64 percent.

The group lamented that its call for P1,500 internet allowance and internet expense subsidy for students was also not reflected in the proposed budget, as well as allotments for laptops and gadgets.

“It seems the government has learned nothing from the disaster that was last school year, or it simply doesn’t care that so many of us are suffering under the tremendous weight of the onerous distance learning. The right of millions of youth to accessible quality education has been sacrificed for too long now, the welfare of our teachers sorely neglected—all because the Duterte administration has turned its back on its mandate on education. The costs of such abandonment is far too high, not only for us but for the entire nation,” Basilio said.