LGUs may use local education fund for distance learning
In a joint circular, the Departments of Budget and Management, of Education, and of the Interior and Local Government enumerated education-related expenditures allowed to be charged to the SEF.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

LGUs may use local education fund for distance learning

Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - December 5, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Local government units (LGUs) are now authorized to use their Special Education Fund or SEF to support distance learning in their localities by spending on communications and producing learning modules, among others.

In a joint circular, the Departments of Budget and Management, of Education, and of the Interior and Local Government enumerated education-related expenditures allowed to be charged to the SEF.

The SEF, which comes from real property tax collected by LGUs, is covered by a 2017 joint circular issued by the three agencies.

The 2017 circular limited the use of the fund to items provided in Republic Act 7160 (Local Government Code) such as the operation and maintenance of schools; construction and repair of school buildings, facilities and equipment; educational research; purchase of books and periodicals; and sports development.

Recently, several LGUs requested the three departments to clarify whether or not the local education fund can be used to address the needs of public schools in the implementation of distance learning in the midst of the pandemic.

In the latest circular, the three departments agreed that distance learning requirements may be charged to the SEF even without amending the law.

“Given the resource gap from DepEd’s budget, the SEF can provide the much-needed budget augmentation for the basic education learning continuity plan,” read the circular, referring to DepEd’s program to support education amid the pandemic.

In addition to the payment of cost and expenses for the acquisition, production, reproduction and printing of learning materials, the joint circular said the SEF may be used to purchase external storage devices and cover the budget needed to distribute and retrieve the learning materials.

The allowable communication expenses cover landline, load for mobile communication and WiFi connection, as well as subscription fee for video conferencing or remote communication tools.

It can also be used to pay for the honoraria and allowances of locally hired personnel, as well as for training of teachers and non-teaching personnel, school leaders, parents, facilitators and community volunteers.

The SEF can also be used for health and sanitation expenses, including personal protective equipment, medical devices such as thermal scanners, vaccines, vitamins, food supplements, hand sanitizers, alcohol, cleaning equipment and provision of psychosocial first aid.

The circular also identified the installation of health areas and facilities as allowable expenses to be charged to the SEF, as well as the procurement of distance learning facilities and equipment such as gadgets, printers, photocopying machines, television and radio sets, battery sets and solar panels.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the joint circular is a significant step in government’s effort to ensure that learning opportunities are still available despite the pandemic.

“Through the widened use of the SEF, our field offices, alongside our very supportive LGU officials, can be more flexible in assisting our teachers, learners and even our parents in the distance learning setup,” she said.

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