Overworked, underpaid: Teachers renew cry over low pay, poor working conditions

Michael Joe Delizo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 30 2019 01:42 PM

MANILA – Fresh from their taxing jobs in the elections and the Balik Eskwela campaign during the school break, some teachers are now gearing for another academic year with resentment over being overworked and underpaid.

Currently, entry-level public school teachers (Teacher 1), which have a Salary Grade 11 under Tranche 4 of the Salary Standardization Law, earn a monthly salary of P20,754.

Such pay may be unattractive to entice qualified and competent educators to teach in public schools, with their roles covering handling big classes amid poor school facilities, among others. 

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said the current teachers' pay is not enough to cope with the rising prices of goods and services as it falls short of the estimated P23,660 monthly income that a family of 5 needs to get by, per a study of think tank IBON Foundation.

“Sa batas, dapat ang edukasyon ay priority. May pera sa giyera pero wala sa edukasyon? May pera sa bala pero wala sa libro?” lamented ACT national chairperson Joselyn Martinez, who teaches in a public school in Malabon City.

(Under the law, education should be the priority. We have money for war but none for education? We have money for bullets but none for books?)

The group envies the doubled salary of police officers and soldiers across all ranks, a pay hike President Rodrigo Duterte enforced amid government's intensified crackdown on drugs and crime and boost of security efforts. 

A Private and a Police Officer 1 have a current base pay of P29,668 monthly salary, while the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police are receiving P149,785 monthly.

Martinez said the “deplorable” condition of teachers would eventually result in poor education quality, noting that teachers’ working conditions translate to students’ learning conditions.

“Kailangan sumasabay naman din ’yung aming propesyon doon sa iba’t ibang propesyon kasi among all the professions in our country, ’yung teachers na ang may sadsad na sahod. Dapat sumasabay kami doon sa ano na ba ang katayuan ng presyo ng bilihin sa ating bansa,” she appealed.

(Our profession has to keep up with the other different professions because among all the professions in our country, teachers have the lowest salary. We need to cope with the status of prices of goods in our country.)

ACT is asking that entry-level basic salary for teachers be raised to P30,000 monthly, P31,000 for Instructor 1, and P16,000 for all Salary Grade 1 employees.

There are more than 800,000 public school teachers in the country, the group said. 

President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed in a number of occasions to increase teachers’ salaries but it has yet to see fruition. 

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Education Undersecretary Tonisito Umali said upgrading teachers' pay is not that easy.

“Mayroon po tayong tinatawag na Salary Standardization Law, ang ibig sabihin, ang lahat ng kawani ng pamahalaan, standardized ang suweldo,” he said. 

“Kung gusto nating taasan ’yung entry level ng ating mga teachers, kailangan mong baguhin ang batas at kailangan magsulong ng batas ang Kongreso.”

(We have what we call Salary Standardization Law, which means that all employees of the government have standardized salary. If we want to increase the salary of teachers in entry level, we need to amend the law and push a measure in Congress.)

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ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said she would again pursue legislation to increase the salary of teachers in the 18th Congress.

The group banks on Senator-elect Christopher "Bong" Go, who promised in his proclamation speech the upgrading of teachers’ salaries as 3rd among his priority legislations and to exhaust all means and resources at his disposal to ensure that teachers would be given decent pay.

“Nag-refile na kami ng 2017 pero hindi ito nagalaw sa 17th Congress,” Castro said. “Ang nangyayari sa nakalipas na Kongreso, hindi ito pinaguusapan sa committee kasi hindi ito priority ng ating lehislatura.”

(We refiled [the bill] in 2017 but it did not move in the 17th Congress. What happened in the past Congress is that the committee did not discuss this because this is not the priority of the legislature.)