MANILA — A teachers' group on Tuesday called on the House of Representatives to "substantially increase" the Department of Education's budget for 2021 so the agency could guarantee accessible quality education during the pandemic.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), which trooped to the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City, also said an increase in the DepEd's budget would help the agency ensure the safety of learners and education workers.
"Despite claims of pushing for a new normal, [President] Duterte’s budget for education reflected more of the same insufficiency," ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said in a statement.
"Considering that the same state neglect we suffered for years mainly caused our inability to efficiently shift to remote learning and to safely and timely reopen schools this year, it’s appalling to see how little funds had been allocated to DepEd," he added.
The government has allocated P606.5 billion of its proposed P4.5 trillion 2021 budget for DepEd, which, in the coming school year, will implement a shift to distance learning due to the continuing threat from the coronavirus pandemic.
Education Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla said they would ask lawmakers to make changes in the allocations under the proposed 2021 budget so the DepEd could sufficiently fund "important" programs.
Here is a list of ACT's funding demands:
• P16.9 billion to warrant a 1:1 nurse-to-school ratio
• P3.5 billion to provide at least 1,000 personal protective equipment to every school district
• P9.7 billion for minimum safety requirements such as alcohol, disposable masks, face shields, and foot baths
• P7 billion for RT-PCR tests of 10 percent of education workers every 14 days
• P10 billion for the medical treatment of DepEd employees who may get COVID-19
• P27 billion to provide laptops to every teacher
• P15 billion to grant a P1,500 internet allowance per month to all educators
• P33.8 billion to provide gadgets to the poorest 5 percent of learners in basic education
"Likewise, bigger allotments should be given to the production of learning materials which will involve not only the printing of modules but also the procurement of textbooks," Basilio added.
When public schools start classes on October 5, students will be studying from their homes through printed and digital modules, online classes, television, and radio.
In-person classes have been suspended to avoid exposing students and educators to the risk of getting COVID-19, which has sickened over 265,000 in the country.
President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the conduct of limited face-to-face classes in areas with low risk of COVID-19 transmission starting January, assuming that a vaccine against the respiratory illness would be available by then.