To help local government units roll out their localized version of the Department of Education’s Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan, Senator Win Gatchalian introduced a provision in the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act that authorizes the use of a portion of the Special Education Fund.
Under Section 4 of Bayanihan 2, the use of the SEF will be allowed to support alternative learning modalities, digital education and infrastructure, the purchase of equipment, materials, and supplies, including the printing and delivery of self-learning modules.
Gatchalian, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, said the use of the SEF also allows to put up infrastructures such as handwashing stations.
The SEF can also be used for the purchase of public health supplies such as soap, alcohol, sanitizers, disinfecting solutions, thermometers, face masks, and face shields.
Under Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991, the SEF is generated from an additional one percent tax on real property. The SEF is released to local school boards and allocated for the operation and maintenance of public schools. It is also used for the construction and repair of school buildings, facilities and equipment, educational research, purchase of books and periodicals, and sports development.
Though some LGUs are already using their SEF in their localized roll-out of the BE-LCP, Gatchalian said that introducing this provision in Bayanihan 2 gives LGUs a stronger mandate to use this funding source for learning continuity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though Bayanihan 2 will be in effect until December 19, 2020, Gatchalian eyes a long-term expansion on the use of the SEF through Senate Bill No. 1579 or the 21st Century School Boards Act, which he filed.
Under the proposed measure, the expanded use of the SEF will cover salaries of public elementary and high school teachers, non-teaching, utility, and security personnel.
The proposed expansion of the SEF coverage also includes salaries of pre-school teachers, capital outlay for pre-schools, operation and maintenance of Alternative Learning System programs, distance education classes and training programs.
To ensure transparency in the utilization of the SEF, Gatchalian also proposed in Senate Bill No. 1579 that school boards establish a transparency board and web portal that will report on SEF collections, expenditures, and balances.