Teachers’ group to Congress: Increase funding for more teachers, classrooms

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 17) — With the House of Representatives set to begin deliberations on the proposed ₱5.768-trillion budget for 2024, a teachers’ group is urging lawmakers to allot additional funds for the hiring of teachers and building more classrooms.

Benjo Basas, national chairman of the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition, said improving the classroom situation should be prioritized over expenditures requiring confidential funds.

"Hindi trabaho ng DepEd (Department of Education) ang intelligence gathering. Ibigay natin ito sa mga ahensya na may mandato ng intelligence gathering. Mahirap i-justify ang confidential at intelligence funds habang meron tayong problema sa basic education," he said on Sunday.

[Translation: Intelligence gathering is not the DepEd’s job. Let’s give that to agencies whose mandate include intelligence gathering. Confidential and intelligence funds are difficult to justify when we have a problem with basic education.]

Vice President Sara Duterte, the concurrent secretary of DepEd, has been criticized for requesting substantial confidential funds for next year.

The Office of the Vice President is seeking ₱500 million in confidential funds, while the Department of Education has asked for ₱150 million from Congress.

The proposed budget for the DepEd next year is ₱758.59 billion, a 5% increase from its current budget of ₱721 billion.

Based on its 2024 budget proposal, the DepEd aims to build 7,879 new classrooms for ₱19.7 billion. It also targets to repair 10,050 classrooms for ₱6.5 billion.

DepEd Undersecretary Michael Poa previously said the country lacks 165,000 classrooms, based on the National School Building Inventory.

"Ang lagyan natin ng pondo yung classroom, yung situation ng ating classroom. Sapat ba ang mga teacher, learning materials ng mga bata? Sapat ba ang mga upuan at di nagsisiksikan ang mga bata?" Basas said.

[Translation: Let us put funds into the building of classrooms. Are there enough teachers and learning materials for children? Are there enough seats, they're not crowded?]

The DepEd has allotted ₱5.7 billion for hiring 20,000 new teachers next year. This will only address barely 22% of the estimated shortage of 89,000 teachers in the primary and secondary levels, according to the agency.

Plenary debates on the 2024 General AppropriatBasions Bill will begin in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.