In anticipation of the likely expansion of face-to-face classes in more schools next year, the Senate Committee on Finance is pushing for an increase in the funding of the Department of Education (DepEd) and the State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) under the 2022 national budget.
Sen. Sonny Angara, who heads the Committee on Finance, took note of the absence of any provision in the National Expenditure Program and General Appropriations Bill for the preparations and implementation of face-to-face classes in the basic and higher education institutions.
With the roll-out of the pilot implementation of in-person classes in 100 public schools last Monday and in 20 private schools last November 22, Angara said the DepEd and the SUCs should be provided with the necessary funding support especially with the expectation that more schools will be allowed to resume classes in the coming months.
“In response to the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes, the committee saw it fit to recommend increases in the budgets of the DepEd and SUCs.
“We will ensure that our students and teachers are safe and start as soon as possible that many students will be inside their classrooms,” he said.
The committee recommended an increase in the budget of the DepEd to cover for the resumption of face-to-face classes.
For the 116 SUCs, including the University of the Philippines System, the Committee included an augmentation in its funds for their own preparations for in-person classes.
Angara said the funds may be used by the DepEd and school administrators for the retrofitting of their classrooms and other facilities to comply with the safety standards set by the Health authorities.
These could include the modification of the lay-out and ventilation of the classrooms, laboratories and other parts of the schools.
The funds could also be used for the COVID testing of the faculty and staff to ensure that they and the students are protected when they hold classes.
If necessary, Angara said the funds could also go to the purchase of supplies and other equipment for the implementation of safety protocols and standards.
“We want to give them some degree of flexibility in the use of the funds since each institution would have different needs. This is why we included in the menu of programs — assistance to the students, teachers and staff for their transportation requirements, which include the purchase of non-motorized forms of transportation such as bicycles,” Angara said.
Angara commended Finance Committee Vice-chairpersons Pia Cayetano, Sherwin Gatchalian and Joel Villanueva for their commitment to ensure that more students will be able to continue their education in spite of the challenges faced by their families during this pandemic.
The committee provided funding for the Private Senior High School Voucher program under the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 and the Education Service Contracting Program for private junior high schools.
Additional funding was also recommended for the Special Education Program of DepEd to assist the learners with disabilities.
Additional support was also included for the Last Mile Schools Program for the construction of more school buildings, tech-voc laboratories, water and sanitation facilities, and the installation of solar panels in the far-flung areas.
“We want to make sure that no child is left behind when it comes to access to quality education. This is even more critical at this time when some families are faced with the prospect of suspending their children’s education due to financial constraints and other challenges under an alternative learning set-up,” Angara said.