By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
For a federation of teachers, a “huge drop” in the capital outlay of the Department of Education (DepEd) proves that the provision of faculty rooms is only an “afterthought.”
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) questioned the DepEd anew with hard data on its claims that it has always been aware of the infrastructure and facilities situation in public schools. Citing the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA), ACT noted that DepEd’s capital outlay was slashed by 64% or Php78.5 from 2018.
Earlier, the DepEd called out ACT for claiming that it “was their actions that prompted” the DepEd to include the construction of administration buildings in its 2020 budget proposal. In an effort to “set the record straight,” DepEd stressed that its “funding request for the construction of administration buildings was based on its awareness of the needs on the ground.”
Why Only Now?
For ACT National Chairperson Joselyn Martinez, if DepEd was “truly aware of the dehumanizing work set up of teachers which has been going on for years, how come we heard nothing from the agency when their infrastructure budget was cut by 64%?”
The agency said that it has proposed for at least 25 billion funding for administration buildings which will house faculty rooms – among others – in 2020. DepEd issued the statements after restroom-turned-faculty rooms in various schools gained national attention during opening week of School Year (SY) 2019-2020.
“While it is a good to know that faculty rooms finally got a slot in DepEd’s proposed budget, we can’t help but ask: Why only now?” Martinez asked. She added that last year’s budget process for the 2019 budget was a “missed opportunity especially with DepEd’s claim that large amounts were already allotted in earlier years to address classroom shortages.”
Martinez added that it was “incomprehensible why we heard nothing from DepEd when its capital outlay was cut by a scandalous chunk while facility shortage remains a major problem in public education.” She asked: “Is it because they did not ask for more?”
ACT also lamented the “measly” funds for schools maintenance and operations (MOOE). The group noted that “less than one third or 25.7billion out of DepEd’s Php81 billion budget” for MOOE for 2019 is “directly aimed for schools.”
Martinez asked that if the primary mandate of DepEd is to operate the public schools, “how come larger MOOE is allotted for offices and other projects?” She added that this “forced” many teachers “to take from their own pockets the money needed to renovate faculty rooms.”
Given this, Martinez called on the DepEd to “review and revise the formula” it used in computing for school MOOE as “it obviously does not sufficiently address the school needs anymore.”
Stop Being ‘Defensive’; Face the Teachers
Meanwhile, ACT maintained that DepEd “should face” the group in a dialogue being the only government-accredited union in several regions. The group alleged that DepEd and its officials are “being bitter with the lashings it got this school opening.”
“They have to understand that it is due to their shortcomings, which is aggravated by the insensitive remarks of their officials,” Martinez said. “Nothing will be resolved if they will not admit to their mistakes and learn from it,” she added.
Martinez stressed that it is “high time” DepEd’s officials act as “responsible administrators.” Thus, the group challenged the agency to “out with the defensive act, and work with teachers in resolving the issues” since it is the “duty of the agency” to hear out teachers’ grievances and consult them in decisions – especially those that affect their rights and welfare.