PASIG CITY- Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones maintained her stand on the issuance of Joint Circular (JC) No. 1, series of 2017 on the Revised Guidelines on the Use of the Special Education Fund (SEF) in providing additional honoraria to nationally hired teachers by local government units (LGUs).
According to the Education chief, there are LGUs, specifically in Metro Manila, that source allowances and/or honoraria both from their General Fund, which is perfectly legal and from the SEF, which the law mandates to be spent on school improvements. However, there are LGUs unable to grant such due to lack of allocation in their General Fund.
"You can see the unfairness of it all. Supposing you are teaching in a far-off municipality where they cannot give [additional allowances]," Briones stated.
SEF is sourced from the one percent levy on the assessed value of real properties. The Department has been receiving reports that several LGUs have already received an audit observation memorandum regarding the disallowance of use of SEF to fund local allowances for teachers.
Bonuses previously granted through SEF by LGUs are only part of the additional compensation that public school teachers take home on top of their basic salary. Under the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) 4, an entry-level public school teacher, or Teacher 1, receives a basic pay of P19,077 within the first tranche, which could amount to P24,000 including bonuses, while a starting teacher in a small provincial private school gets a mere P6,000 on average.
In public schools, this can go as high as P24,141 basic monthly pay for a Head Teacher 1; P33,452 for a Master Teacher 1; and P36,409 for a School Principal 1.
Contrary to claims that without the SEF, teachers will be forced to spend for school expenses from their own pockets, the Department has positioned legitimate mechanisms that already cover such costs. One of which is the school maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) that provide funding for materials and activities necessary in the conduct of classes and effective learning delivery, such as:
" Activities as identified in the approved School Improvement Plan (SIP)
" Expenses for school-based training and activities selected/designed to improve learning outcomes in the school, such as but not limited to, Learning Action Cells (LAC) and Continuous Improvement (CI)
" Expenses on special curricular programs (e.g. advocacy, assessment, capacity building, learning environment, learner development, and research) and co-curricular activities of special curricular program
" Expenses pertaining to graduation rites, moving up or closing ceremonies and recognition activities
" School supplies and other consumables for teachers and students deemed necessary in the conduct of classes
" Reproduction of teacher-made activity sheets or exercises downloaded from the Learning Resource Management and Development System (LRMS)]
For an instance, Southville 4 Caingin Elementary School in Sta. Rosa, Laguna (96 teachers, 50 classrooms, 4,353 students, and 635 graduating students) is allocated with P2,041,000 worth of MOOE in 2017. Meanwhile, Nueva Ecija National High School in Aliaga, Nueva Ecija (235 teachers, 181 classrooms, 6,120 students, and 1,355 graduating students) is allocated with a MOOE of P7,128,000.
As a seasoned expert in public finance, Briones maintained that balance must be struck in considering the call to increase the starting salary in any sector, especially its impact on the national economy.
According to Briones, she has discussed the proposal to hike the basic pay of public school teachers during a Cabinet meeting, and pointed out, "Yung tumatanggap ngayon ng P35,000 will be getting P70,000, pina-compute namin, ang pinaka-conservative na estimate is we will need P350 billion more. I don't know how the Secretary of Finance will react to that, he has to raise P350 billion more."
The DepEd, Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued the Joint Circular to update the guidelines and policies on the use and purpose of the SEF as provided under Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991.
Source: Philippines information agency