By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Friday clarified her stand on the salary increase of public school teachers – noting the while she was “not against” it, it was still part of her duty to make sure that the hike would be “equitable, within the government’s means, and sustainable.”
“It is not true that I am against the salary increase of our public school teachers,” said Briones in a statement clarifying her stand on the issue.
She added that as DepEd Secretary and an advocate, she was committed to the “policy to promote and improve the social and economic status of public school teachers, their living and working conditions, and their terms of employment.”
Briones added that she was in “full support of the President’s pronouncement to raise the salaries of teachers” and noted how she has been “working with the economic team in the Cabinet to find ways and means to realize a salary increase for DepEd’s close to 830,000 teachers.”
In 2018 – when salary increase was taken up in the Cabinet – Briones said that the “decision was to allow the fourth and last tranche of the SSL [Salary Standardization Law] this year, and for DBM [Department of Budget and Management] to come up with a study on how to effect the next salary increase.”
Briones noted that the “next salary increase is presently under discussion.”
When classes for School Year (SY) 2019-2020 opened this week, teachers reiterated their calls for a salary increase.
In response, Briones said that increasing the salary of teachers has to “studied carefully” since it would cost the government P150 billion annually for a P10,000-across-the-board increase.
“What has been misunderstood, and misrepresented to be a position against a salary increase, was my discussion of the considerations that need to be taken into account in making the decision,” Briones said.
Briones explained that “we need to carefully assess the fiscal impact of the salary increase.” A P5,000-across-the-board increase, she said, will require an additional P75 billion annually. “Raising such amount will have to consider corresponding policies in taxes, borrowing, or budget reallocation,” she added.
Recognizing that there was “an equity issue in relation to other government personnel that we need to address,” Briones emphasized that “we cannot think of the teachers alone.”
Over the years, Briones said that the “salaries of teachers have improved.” She added that aside from basic salaries of teachers, there are also “benefits” – some of which are exclusive to them. The monthly salaries of teachers after the 4th tranche of SSL are as follows: Teacher I (Salary Grade 11) – P20,754.00; Teacher II (SG 12) – P22,938.00; Teacher III (SG 13) – P25,232.00; Master Teacher I (SG 18) – P40,673.00; Master Teacher II (SG 19) – P45,269.00; and Master Teacher III (SG 20) – P51,155.00.
As of June 2019, DepEd data showed that there were 879, 056 authorized plantilla items and 827, 733 were filled.
Aside from monthly compensation, teachers also receive other benefits and allowances such as hardship allowance and honoraria for teaching overload. “Some LGUS also provide additional incentives/allowance to teachers from their general fund,” DepEd added.
Briones added that salaries of public school teachers have “already overtaken the salaries of those in private school, resulting in the migration of private school teachers to the public schools.” As of 2016, DepEd data showed that there was at least 71-percent difference in the salaries of teachers in public and private schools. Elementary and high school teachers in private schools, DepEd said, receive monthly salaries ranging from P6,650 to P14, 632, compared to the monthly salary of public school teachers which range from P17,145 to P20,813.
“I call attention to these not to argue against salary increase, but as a correction to the public notion that public school teachers is still the most pitiful and lowest paid profession,” Briones said. “There have been serious efforts to uplift teachers’ conditions that the public should also be made aware of,” she added.
Briones noted that she was “fully aware” that discussing considerations in salary increase makes her a “target of certain vicious organized groups” among the ranks of teachers. “They call me names, twist my statements, and amplify negatives to overshadow whatever reforms and gains we make in basic education,” she said.
Despite this, Briones takes pride seeing teachers in various parts of the country who appreciate the efforts of the
department. “I also go around the country to visit schools, and I see that most teachers appreciate the efforts that we do for and with them,” she said. “Yes, there are limitations, yet these do not stop us from sharing music, dance, laughter, and the joy and pride of teaching,” she added.
Briones assured teachers that “next salary increase of public school teachers will come” but as a DepEd and member of the cabinet, she also noted her “duty” to help make sure that such salary increase is equitable, sustainable and within the means of the government.