Despite getting the largest share of funds from the national budget of 2014, teachers say the budget for basic education in the Philippines is not even enough to supply a class with chalk that would last a school year.
BY DABET C. PANELO
In the General Appropriations Act of 2014, the Department of Education topped the national budget list with a P281.7 billion ($6.26 billion) allotment. Elementary teachers, however, said with 20.8 million students (Kinder: 1.78 million; Elementary: 13.3 million and High School: 5.7 million) all over the country, this amount is hardly sufficient.
Grade 5 English teacher Joy Martinez, who attended the celebration of International Women’s Day in Mendiola on March 8, said the budget for basic education remains dismal both for students and teachers alike. Martinez, who has been teaching at the Imelda Elementary Scholl in Malabon for two decades, said the entry level for teachers is P18,549 ($412) a month while those in service for a longer time get P2,000 to 3,000 ($44 to $66) more. This pay, Martinez said, is gross of tax, other government obligations and loans. She said her regular take home pay dwindles to a measly P3,800 ($84) a month.
Worse under Aquino government
Martinez said their situation has even worsened under the administration of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. “There has been no wage increase since Aquino stepped into power in 2010,” Martinez said. Their Performance Enhancement Incentive amounting to P10,000 ($222) a year has been slashed to P5,000 ($111) while their productivity pay of P2,000 ($44) a year was discontinued.
Meanwhile, the Aquino administration implements a Performance Based Bonus, which ranks elementary and secondary public schools on three criterion: their National Achievement Test rate, their dropout rate, and their liquidation of their Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE). Teachers from schools which rank 1 receives P35,000 ($777) per year while those from rank 3 schools receive P5,000 a year.
“These scheme is unfair especially to those who teach in far flung areas where schools scarcely have books, comfort room and other school supplies and where teachers are forced to handle two grade levels in each class,” Martinez lamented. These schools, Martinez added, will never have the chance to rank number one.
Added to these, Martinez said their chalk allowance is only at P1,000 ($22) per year as against the price of a box of chalk that cost P50 ($1.11) and would only last a week. Other educational devices such as manila papers, markers and visual arts, which are needed to enhance their teaching methods, are at the teachers’ cost.
With this predicament, Martinez said teachers are forced to have “side-lines” which would range from selling bread and candies in class during break time or accepting tutoring jobs after class or during weekends. Some try their luck elsewhere.
Grade 2 teacher Loel Naparato, 48, tried her luck and applied as a teacher in Washington after 19 years of teaching at the Old Balara Elementary School in Quezon City. In an interview with Bulatlat during the women’s march on March 8 in Mendiola, Naparato said she is in a daze right now. “I don’t know what to do,” she said while trying to fight her tears.
With a gross pay of P22,140 ($492) a month, Naparato said this is never enough for her three children whom she raises alone. On June 2012, she applied for a teaching post in Washington and spent almost P600,000 ($13,300) in agency and visa fees. After more than a year of processing her papers, Naparato found out on November 8, 2013 that the agency she applied to has closed shop and the owner now faces cases of illegal recruitment and syndicated estafa at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
Call for wage hike
Martinez, who served as spokesperson for ACT Teachers organization during the women’s march, urged the government to enact an across-the-board wage increase for teachers and non-teaching staff who, in fact, face layoff due to the government’s rationalization program.
Other aspects of the educational system need improvement. In a forum on the national budget at the University of the Philippines College of Law on February 27, Professor Leonor Briones of the civic group Social Watch said funding for education has to be increased even more. “While attention is focused on the K-12 program, other aspects of education for all need additional attention as well. Alternative Learning Systems need more support. Not all Filipinos have had the opportunity to go into the formal education system. Schools for Muslim children and indigenous peoples are needed to enhance their cultural heritage,” Briones said.