“If she is really thinking of improving the lives of teachers, she should have worked towards increasing the benefits of teachers.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Progressive public school teachers expressed disappointment with Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones of the Department of Education (DepEd) for justifying a government circular halting the allotment of teachers’ allowances by local government units. This, they said, shows that her pro-teachers stance was “mere rhetoric.”
Joint Circular No. 1 series of 2017 was issued in January by DepEd, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which removes the teachers’ allowances sourced from the Special Education Fund (SEF).
In a statement Feb. 28, Briones said that in Metro Manila, the practice of LGUs has been to source the allowances from their SEF. She said that teachers’ additional allowances must come from “legitimate sources, such as the (LGU) General Fund.”
In response, Act Teachers’ Party Rep. France Castro lambasted Briones by saying that the SEF is a legitimate fund.
Castro, who was a public school teacher for more than 20 years, said the source of public school teachers’ local allowance is legitimate under Section 272 of the Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code, which listed the allowable expenses chargeable to the SEF. Among the allowable expense include educational research, purchase of books and periodicals among others.
“We remind the Secretary that the SEF has long been a legitimate source of teachers’ local allowances pursuant to law and the guidelines implementing this law,” said Castro, referring to the Joint Circular 1, series of 1998 of DepEd, DILG and DBM.
The older joint circular has been revised by the latest, which slashed the allowances, particularly for the nationally-hired teachers.
Castro said this will deny teachers of the funds they needed for instructional materials and supplies. “Even furniture, for use in their classrooms and schools,” Castro added.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) has criticized the new circular, which they described as “slap in their faces.”
In a statement, the group said nationally paid teachers have been receiving local allowance from the local government for decades, and that such has augmented the insufficient salary they have been receiving from the national government.
‘Public school teachers are well compensated’
Defending the circular, Briones said, “public school teachers are well-compensated, which is far from the old notion that teachers are underpaid.”
She also said the basic salary of P19, 077 ($379) a month for Teacher 1 in public schools even attracts teachers from private school who earn less.
But ACT said that is far from reality. Citing Ibon Foundation’s data, ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio said the family living wage in the National Capital Region alone is pegged at P1,119 ($22) per day or more than P33,570 ($667) – a month, a far cry from the P19,077 they receive per month.
Basilio lamented that a cadet from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) has a monthly salary of P21,709 ($431), while public school teachers who taught the cadets, receive much lower.
Basilio said they are extremely disappointed with Briones, who, they said, is clueless on the real condition of public school teachers.
“How could she miss the fact that due to the inadequate funds for education from the annual national budgets, teachers are forced to shell out from their own pockets for expenses in the classroom and school?” said Basilio.
He said instead of defending the joint circular, Briones should have stood firm against it. “If she is really thinking of improving the lives of teachers, she should have worked towards increasing the benefits of teachers,” he said.
Basilio said the removal of the teachers’ allowances was based on recommendations of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which was one of the foreign bodies that pushed for the K to 12 program.
Castro, meanwhile said that telling teachers that they are not underpaid to justify the slashing of their allowances is like “rubbing salt into their wounds.”
“This is the very fiction foisted by the government to deny the legitimate demand for substantial salary increases for our teachers and other government employees.”
ACT Teachers Party has been pushing for a P25,000 ($500) entry-level salary for public school teachers and P16,000 ($320) to non-teaching personnel. Their proposed bill House Bill 245 seeks to increase the salary of teaching and non-teaching personnel in public elementary and high schools but is still pending at the Committee on Education and Culture.