/ 29 August 2020

LOCAL government units can roll out their localized version of the Department of Education’s Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan once President Rodrigo Duterte signs the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.

This developed after Senator Win Gatchalian introduced a provision in the Bayanihan 2 authorizing the use of a portion of the Special Education Fund for blended learning.

Under Section 4 of Bayanihan 2, the use of the SEF will be allowed to support alternative learning modalities; digital education and infrastructure; and 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 infrastructure such as handwashing stations as well as for the purchase of public health supplies like soap, alcohol, sanitizers, disinfecting solutions, thermometers, face masks and face shields.

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

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

Some LGUs are reportedly in practice of using their SEF in their localized rollout of the BE-LCP, but the senator said introducing this provision in Bayanihan 2 gives LGUs a stronger mandate to use this funding source for learning continuity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though Bayanihan 2 will be in effect only until December 19, 2020, Gatchalian eyes a long-term expansion on the use of the SEF through Senate Bill No. 1579, or the 21st Century School Boards Act, of which he’d also filed.

Under the proposed measure, 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, and the operation and maintenance of Alternative Learning System programs, distance education classes and training programs.