“Instead of diplomas, the government will be handing out dismissal slips. The budget cut for tertiary education is a ticket to a forced vacation for many public and private college students,” Recto said in a statement.
Philstar.com/File
Students face ‘forced vacation’ due to budget cuts
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - October 5, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Hundreds of thousands of college students face “forced vacations” after the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) suffered an P11.6-billion cut in its proposed budget for next year, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto announced yesterday.

“Instead of diplomas, the government will be handing out dismissal slips. The budget cut for tertiary education is a ticket to a forced vacation for many public and private college students,” Recto said in a statement.

“There are many kinds of leaves a student can avail himself of, but a government-imposed ‘tuition-subsidy holiday’ should not be one of them,” he added.

Recto said it would be OK if the students have yet to enter college, but most of the affected will be those who are already enrolled, prodded by a government guarantee that if they study hard and maintain good grades, they can keep the scholarship. 

The 2019 CHED budget is P52.43 billion but the government proposed a P40.78-billion allocation for next year, or a 23 percent cut amounting to P11.65 billion. 

The bulk of the CHED budget or about 80 percent is for the implementation of the program mandates of Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education (UAQTE). 

For the current year, the UAQTE budget is P42.5 billion. The biggest component of this is the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES), which, for this year, is P25.28 billion, to fund 708,993 beneficiaries in five major assistance programs.

But for 2020, the proposed UAQTE budget is P35.36 billion, a deep P7.12-billion cut. 

On top of this reduction is the obliteration of P2.6 billion for the Tulong Dunong Program. 

The CHED has appealed for the restoration of the P10.35-billion cut in its UAQTE budget.

Otherwise, the continued schooling of 175,260 students under the Student Financial Assistance Program, 1,932 medical scholars and around 115,352 to 199,920 students who benefit from the TES will be in peril.

The budget cut is just for the CHED. This is different from the case of the 111 state universities and colleges with proposed P64.86-billion funding, which is only one-fifth of one percent of their total allocation this year.

“There are no easy solutions to this problem of underfunding. Congress is not a mint that can just print money. But by raising this issue, I hope that both houses will find ways on how to maintain the funding status quo,” Recto said.

Pay hike for teachers

Meanwhile, senators yesterday called for additional benefits and increases in the salaries of public school teachers.

“This World Teachers’ Day, let us give our beloved educators the pay that they deserve,” Sen. Sonny Angara said in recognizing the critical role they play in the lives of children and in nation-building.

 Senate Bill 131 filed by Angara calls for an increase in the starting pay of public school teachers, from the present Salary Grade 11 (P20,754) to Salary Grade 19 (P45,269) based on the fourth tranche of the Salary Standardization Law.

A corresponding upgrade in the salaries of the rest of the teachers above the entry level will also be implemented.

 The upgrade in salaries will be done over a period of five years so that the Department of Budget and Management will be able to make the necessary budgetary adjustments, Angara said.

“Without our teachers, parents would have to make great sacrifices to educate their children and many of them can’t afford to do this. That is why we should at the very least raise their salaries to a level that will recognize their value,” he said.

The increase in the pay of the 800,000 public school teachers was something also promised by President Duterte.

Over the years, the salaries of policemen and soldiers have gone up, but teachers’ pay remained the same, he said.

Sen. Bong Revilla, chairman of the Senate committee on civil service, during a hearing last week asked the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to find funds to finances the salary hikes.

Sen. Pia Cayetano also filed a bill seeking to raise the compensation for teachers by at least P10,000 that will be granted over three years in three tranches. The measure is being studied by Revilla’s committee. 

For his part, Sen. Joel Villanueva said that more than 600,000 college students are currently enrolled in educational institutions. The figure, he said, represents 20 percent of the 3.2 million students enrolled in universities and colleges nationwide.  Rainier Allan Ronda

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