Private schools seek P2.4 billion wage subsidy for teachers during COVID-19 crisis

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 14 2020 03:31 PM | Updated as of May 14 2020 06:20 PM

FILE PHOTO: A teacher enters an empty classroom in a private school in Quezon City on May 24, 2018. Fernando Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A group of private schools on Thursday urged senators and Department of Education (DepEd) officials to provide a wage subsidy for teachers who also lost their income due to the coronavirus crisis.

About 300,000 private school teachers need aid as some educators are hired on a "no work, no pay" basis, Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) managing director Joseph Estrada told the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

"It will be a big help for us if there will be a salary subsidy for them. Kahit 'yung amount po pareho na lang sa napagkasunduan na sa Bayanihan Act, malaking bagay na po 'yun (Even if the amount is similar to that stipulated in the Bayanihan Act will be a big help)," Estrada said.

Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, 18 million indigent families will each receive between P5,000 and P8,000 on April and May depending on the minimum wage rate in their respective regions, as households grappled with loss of livelihood because of travel and work restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Malacañang recently announced 5 million more will receive the cash aid. 

Some private school teachers also need help in the "acquisition of equipment... training and assistance for mobile data packages," Estrada said, noting how the education sector has been trying to move to the digital space as health officials discouraged physical classes during the coronavirus crisis.

The government will have to spend some P2.4 billion to provide at least P8,000 each to 300,000 private school teachers, DepEd Undersecretary Tonisito Umali said.

DepEd needs a list of displaced private school teachers since not all educators lost their income, Umali said.

"Ang mga hindi lang po nakakuha ng suweldo ay mga non-permanent employees, contractual employees. Kung mabibigyan tayo ng datos diyan, we will take it from there," he said.

(Only non-permanent employees and contractual employees are not receiving their salaries. If data will be given to us, we will take it from there.)

In April, Education Secretary Leonor Briones asked the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to include private school teachers in government's cash aid programs.

EXPANDING THE GASTPE PROGRAM

Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture chair Sherwin Gatchalian said lawmakers will also review how they can "expand" the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) Program.

"We will support the private schools but hindi doon sa (but not under) social amelioration. We will do it through the GASTPE, so ibang mechanism ang gagamitin natin (we will use a different mechanism)," Gatchalian told reporters in a press briefing.

"Sa ilalim ng social amelioration, ang qualification is a family earning less than P10,750 a month. Ang teachers hindi papasok doon dahil obviously, mas malaki ang kita nila. 'Yun ang isang controversy and defect of the social amelioration," he said.

(Under the social amelioration program, the qualification is a family earning less than P10,750 a month. Teachers won't qualify because obviously, they earn more. That's one controversy and defect of social amelioration.)

The GASTPE program "provides financial assistance to students and teachers in order to improve access to quality education and decongest the public schools."

But according to a Commission on Audit Performance Report in 2018, the DepEd granted subsidies "even to students coming from non-poor families."

"DepEd does not check whether or not the students [under the GASTPE program] are actually underprivileged," the COA said in its report.

"DepEd paid approximately P4.76 billion for Grade 7 alone and P10.22 billion for Grades 11 and 12... This means that about P14.98 billion were given to non-poor beneficiaries for school years 2012-2017," the report read.

From 2012 to 2017, students under the GASTPE program received between P5,000 and P22,500 each, according to COA.

Gatchalian said allocations for the program may be used to help the private school sector stay afloat as the economic crisis brought by the global pandemic and physical distancing policies are expected to halve enrollments in private educational institutions.