A lawmaker has proposed the use of the special education fund of local government units in extending financial assistance to private school teachers aside from giving them training, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City said that helping teachers should be included in the proposed expanded utilization of the local education fund.
“Congress has all the authority to decide on what’s best for the country. And I believe we can assist private school teachers whose remunerations are lagging behind. When we give assistance to teachers, it is for the benefit of the students,” he said during a recent virtual meeting of the House committee on higher education chaired by
Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo, which is considering a proposal to expand the use of the SEF.
“Teachers are like candles who in teaching their students consume themselves in order to give light to their students,” he said.
Romulo voiced concern over a constitutional provision which he said clearly states “that public funds should not be used for private purposes.”
But Rodriguez said the prohibition would not apply “because we’re not helping the private sector or school per se but we are helping the students of our country in private schools.”
Besides, he said there is nothing wrong if the proposed financial aid to teachers is treated as assistance to private schools, since the government has been helping private educational institutions through various programs, including GASTPE (government assistance to students and teachers in private education).
Rodriguez likewise cited the Education Act of 1965 of the United States which provided $1.3B in direct aid not only to public schools but also to parochial/sectarian private schools, sidestepping even the religious issue. Also its Higher Education Act of 1965 appropriated $650M for scholarships for students in both public and private Colleges and universities.
“Even in America where we got our Constitutional provision that public funds can only be used for public purposes, its Congress has appropriated funds for private schools because the Assistance ultimately to their students is for a public purpose”, Rodriguez informed the Committee.
“We can legislate that the special education fund in the local level be used for the purpose of assisting private schools. Their students are part of the public,” he told the Romulo committee.
Rodriguez’s colleagues Congressman Mark Go and Congresswoman France Castro supported the proposal, pointing out that the SEF comes from local taxes which could also be used for private School Teachers and their students.
The Mindanao lawmaker also proposed that the special fund be utilized to help local schools acquire computer gadgets and internet connectivity both for their teachers and students.
“With the new-normal blended learning program of the Department of Education that will initially do away with face-to-face classes, the challenge for the national government and LGUs is to provide schools with the necessary equipment to promote distance education,” he said.
He said the national government alone cannot supply all the needed devices since it is already hard-pressed for funds for Covid-19 response measures.