Higher budget for subsidies,lower for new school buildings
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - January 16, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers have reduced the total budget for the construction of new school buildings this year in lieu of other programs such as the financial subsidies that cover the tuition of students enrolled in private schools.

Budget documents showed that the allocation for the construction, replacement and completion of school buildings and other facilities has been reduced to P12.9 billion from the originally proposed P19.9 billion.

Last year, Congress allocated P14.363 billion for the construction of new school buildings. 

Reduction a huge challenge

Last week, the Department of Education (DepEd) described the reduction of the funding for new buildings as a huge challenge “as it will adversely affect the programming of a lower classroom-to- students ratio for the coming school years.”

Congress has also slashed the budget for the computerization program, from the original proposed P8.9 billion to only P4.8 billion.

This, however, is slightly higher than last year’s P4.37 billion.

Despite the lower allocation for some programs, the overall budget of the DepEd and its attached agencies has increased from P501 billion in 2019 to P521 billion this year.

The government had originally proposed a budget of P519 billion for the education department for this year.

The increase was primarily due to higher funding allotted to government subsidies, which includes the senior high school voucher program.

Documents released by the Department of Budget and Management showed that lawmakers have increased the total budget for subsidies from the P31.18 billion proposal of the government to P36.679 billion.

This is higher than last year’s allocation of P32.121 billion.

Voucher program gets biggest subsidy

Like in previous years, the bulk of the funding for subsidies goes to the senior high school voucher program with P23.93 billion, up by more than P5 billion from the proposed P18.755 billion, which is similar to last year’s allocation.

Lawmakers also increased the budget for the Education Service Contracting program, which provides financial subsidies to junior high school students enrolled in private schools, from the P10.673 billion proposal to P10.947 billion.

The DepEd has yet to release the data on the number of new students who would be covered by the increase in the budget for the assistance programs.

It had earlier welcomed the increase in funding for subsidies and other programs such as the “last mile schools” and the human resource development for personnel in schools and learning centers.

P39 B less than requested

Lawmakers have increased the funding for the pilot implementation of the “last mile schools” program, which seeks to improve those that fail to meet the basic criteria set for learning institutions in the Philippines.

The 2020 General Appropriations Act showed that P6.5 billion has been allocated for the program, up from the originally proposed P1.5 billion.

The approved allocation, however, is still significantly lower than the original DepEd request of more than P46 billion.

Education Undersecretary for finance Annalyn Sevilla said they would have to prioritize the schools that would benefit from the program.

Sevilla added that they have already selected around 360 out of the more than 9,000 identified as target beneficiaries of the program.

 “‘Last mile schools’ are those that have less than four classrooms, with makeshift or non-standard rooms, without electricity, have not been allocated funds for repairs or construction for the last four years and have travel distance of more than one hour from the town center.

They also include those that have multigrade classes or rooms, with fewer than five teachers, have a student population of less than 100 and with more than 75 percent of learners coming from indigenous peoples’ groups.

In an earlier memorandum, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the DepEd would work with various agencies to address the gaps and provide support, including proper facilities such as classrooms, standard school furniture, solar panels for those without access to electricity and a two-story access and climate change emergency storage and shelter.

The DepEd would also provide adequate teaching and learning materials, additional teachers including training and funds for programs such as Gulayaan sa Paaralan and School inside a Garden.

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