MANILA - Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go on Friday pushed for a bill that would expand the coverage of the Special Education Fund (SEF) as schools shift to online, TV and radio classes while a vaccine against the coronavirus disease has yet to be developed.
Under Section 272 of the Local Government Code, local school boards must spend their respective SEF for the construction and maintenance of schools, educational research, purchase of books and periodicals, and sports development.
"Through a proposed amendment to the Local Government Code, we can provide LGUs the flexibility they need to maximize available resources in order to help educational institutions adopt policies that can allow our students to continue their studies without exposing them to health risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," Go said in a statement.
"Magagamit ng LGUs ang SEF para matulungan ang Department of Education (DepEd) maimplementa ang blended learning," he said.
(LGUs may use SEF to help DepEd implement blended learning.)
The SEF comes from the additional 1-percent tax on real property and is allotted to local school boards.
Under the proposed Senate Bill No. 396, filed a year before the COVID-19 pandemic, the fund may be spent to procure "teaching aids and other instructional materials," and pay for the "salaries, allowances and other benefits of teaching and non-teaching personnel."
The fund may also be tapped to operationalize the Alternative Learning System (ALS), which provides "a mix of learning modalities" such as "digital learning, modular instruction, and radio and television-based instruction."
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said face-to-face classes would not be allowed without a COVID-19 vaccine to avoid the transmission of the disease in schools. Classes are set to start in schools on August 24, but lessons will be delivered through physical modules, online and mass media.
Congress approved the ALS bill in May, but Duterte has yet to sign it into law.
Last month, Senate Committee on Basic Education chair Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said most schools "are not ready" to shift to online classes or distance learning as thousands of teachers and students lack tools.
DepEd is expected to unveil its TV and radio education modules next month as the government eyes the use of transistor radios as a "stopgap" learning tool for students in far-flung areas.