DepEd explains zero budget for special education

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 19) — The Department of Education (DepEd) has explained the reason behind the zero allocation for children with special needs in the proposed 2023 national budget.

In a statement on Monday, the DepEd said it initially proposed a budget of ₱532 million for the Special Education Program (SPED) for the upcoming year, but it was not considered in the National Expenditure Program (NEP).

"This is true for two other programs that were excluded from the NEP," the agency added. "This is a recurring circumstance every year, and DepEd is not at a loss, because we always work with members of Congress to find other ways to fund DepEd programs."

DBM: DepEd did not give sufficient documentation for SPED budget

The Department of Budget and Management clarified that the DepEd pushed for the retention of a funding provision for SPED in the NEP, but "no sufficient documentation was provided" to justify it, including specific purposes, parameters, and computations.

The DepEd did not also provide a status of the ongoing conversion and establishment of the Inclusive Learning Resource Centers funded under the fiscal years of 2021 and 2022 General Appropriations Act, the DBM said.

"Moreover, please be informed that as of June 30, 2022, the SPED program under the FY 2022 GAA has an obligation rate of 1.13% or only ₱6.35 million out of ₱560.202 million allocation," the DBM said, adding that the funding provision will still be valid until December 31, 2023.

During the DepEd's budget hearing last week, Education Undersecretary Ernesto Gaviola said the agency has no budget for learners with disabilities (LWDs) and it is just utilizing all its available funds for the current year.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who inquired about the funding for SPED, underscored the importance of supporting LWDs, and called on the agency to provide data on the nationwide number of Filipino children with special needs.

"The special children are those who need special attention and special necessities compared to other children. This is very important because I understand we have an increasing number of special children in the Philippines," the lawmaker said during the deliberation.

From the ₱633.3-billion budget this year, DepEd is set to get a bigger allocation of ₱666.25 billion, ₱150 million of which will be allocated to confidential funds to supposedly protect students from illegal activities.

The House Committee on Appropriations swiftly ended the budget deliberation for the agency, headed by Education Secretary and Vice President Sara Duterte. The DepEd budget will still be up for plenary deliberations.