"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Monday, June 25, 2012

$1B Loan to IMF: Height of Gov't Neglect of Education


 Rep. Antonio L. Tinio (09209220817)

ACT Teachers Party-List Representative Antonio L. Tinio hit the Aquino government’s $1B pledge to the International Monetary Fund’s emergency pool.
Based on the latest Reference Exchange Rate issued by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the pledge amounts to P42.26 B.
Tinio says that the contribution to the kitty, allegedly for crisis prevention and resolution and to meet the potential financing needs of IMF members, works as a loan for countries mostly in Europe, currently under economic crisis.
“PNoy again displayed the utmost insensitivity to the education sector.  Our country pays its Kinder teachers P3,000 a month, and its  class sizes sometimes bulge to 70 students per classroom.  Our public school teachers are themselves drowning in debt because their salaries cannot keep up with the rising costs of living.  Why would our President extend loans to countries whose Kinder teachers are paid around five times more than ours receive, whose class sizes are sometimes 15 to a teacher?”
Tinio points out that P42.26 B could have translated into a 16.3% increase in the ceiling set by the Department of Budget and Management for DepEd’s appropriations in 2013.  It could have funded additional resources to run his K to 12 Program effectively and with respect to the rights and welfare of teachers and students.  Aquino gave up sufficient allocations for the Universal Kindergarten Education, including P4,453,070,980 for the regularization and bonuses of 20,000 Kinder teachers and about P23.6 B for 34,500 classrooms nationwide.
Tinio also observes that “it is just typical for PNoy to think of ‘poor’ economies in Europe first and not provide for the salary upgrading of teachers, which they have long been demanding.”  The pledge could have answered the budgetary requirements for increasing the salaries of public school teachers from Salary Grade 11 to 15—about P40 B for some 520,000 teachers already in DepEd’s payroll.
Despite gaining the support of more than 180 Members of the House of Representatives, Tinio’s House Bill 2142, or the Public School Teachers’ Salary Upgrading Act, has been lying dormant with the House Committee on Appropriations—waiting for DBM’s comments—since September 20, 2010.
Tinio notes that the $1B pledge is further proof that Aquino’s priorities lie in areas beyond the benefit of the Filipino people.  “In the hopes of raising investor confidence and inviting the US Federal Reserve to buoy our economy—unfounded speculations—PNoy again surrendered the future of Philippine education.”


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Paying our teachers well

Rep. Sonny Angara pushes for higher teacher wages
teachersWe all know about the dismal state of education in the country. Aside from the glaringly obvious need to improve school facilities, it is a well known fact that our country’s public school teachers are grossly underpaid.
Imagine having to handle anywhere from 50 to 70 students in an overcrowded classroom, many of which don’t even have the necessary school books or school supplies and being responsible for the molding of the country’s youth, yet getting paid peanuts for it. Domestic helpers abroad make more money in a week more than what a public school teacher makes in a month.
Push to increase wages
Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, who is the Chairperson for the Committee on Higher and Technical Education is once again pushing for increased wages for government teachers. He has filed house Bill 395 to upgrade the minimum salary of our public school teachers from an SG 10 to a much more comfortable SG 19.
Poor salary places education in jeopardy
According to the Aurora Representative, “Quality education and healthcare are crucial to improving the welfare of our people as these pave the way for good employment opportunities.”
In an interview with Karen Davila on ANC Hot Copy, Rep. Angara said that the pre-school teachers that the government has only make P6,000 a month. They are technically called volunteer teachers and are given P3,000 per shift.
This salary is certainly shocking, as P6,000 a month is only the price of a pair of imported designer shoes in Manila! How can we expect to attract good pre-school teachers if they are paid only about P250 a day?
Salary Standardization Law III
To address the low wage problem of government employees, especially public school teachers, the salaries of our public school teachers and nurses are subject to an improved pay scale under the Salary Standardization Law III, also known as SSL III or the Joint Resolution 04.
Back in May, President Aquino said that the release of the fourth tranche of the increase would happen a month earlier instead of the schedule in July. According to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, a total pay raise valued at P2.7 billion pegged for 1.6 million government workers would be released as early as June 1. The fourth tranche of this pay increase is going to be rolled out this month.
Minimum salary
According to Rep. Sonny Angara, the minimum salary of a public school teacher in the country is only at P17,255. This falls under salary grade 10 (SG 10). On the other hand, government nurses also suffer from poor wages. They receive P18,549, placing them under SG 11. This figure is well below what is mandated in the Nursing Act of 2002 or RA 9173. This republic act sets the minimum salary of nurses at P24,000 each month, placing them at a salary grade of 15.
As these levels, Angara said that “keeping the base pay for teachers at such low levels actually jeopardizes our efforts to improve our education system. But it’s also a matter of having a competitive pay scale to make teaching a viable long-term career.”
If this pushes through, it would peg the basic salary of public school teachers at P33,000 a month. At this level, perhaps more people would be more inclined to enter the teaching profession. It would certainly be a way to attract the smartest graduates and the most qualified teachers.
Comparable to Thailand
According to UNESCO, the base salary of the country’s teachers is about the same as in Thailand. A veteran teacher will get as much as 94% pay increase after 15 years of work experience.
Other benefits to consider
Perhaps aside from a monetary increase, other benefits can be given as incentives to public school teachers. Aside from good health care insurance, perhaps housing for public school teachers can be given. Allowances for transportation and educational materials may also be given. Maybe they can also be given discounts, much like Senior Citizens get 20% off their food items and free movies.
Companies know that in order to attract the best people, they need to give competitive wages. If we are truly ready to make changes in the country’s education system, then we need to start making the investment for it. We need to put our money where our mouth is.
HB 393
Back in 1991, the Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM) recommended that the salary levels of teachers be upgraded from Grade 10 to Grade 17. House Bill 393 seeks to increase it to Grade 19, in keeping with the higher cost of living in today’s times. This will increase the teacher’s salaries by about P6,000. This will boost the minimum salary of public teachers to at least P23,000 a month.
HB 393 is also an act meant to grant additional insurance benefits to all public school teachers. Also called Public School Teacher’s Insurance Act of 2010, the measure seeks to increase GSIS benefits of teachers to a death benefit of P200,000; provide teachers with burial expenses of P50,000; and reimburse medical expenses up to P100,000.
HB 274
Angara has also filed HB 274 An Act Instituting a Program for the Continuing Education of College Teachers. This is meant to amend the existing RA 7784 to help strengthen the education system of the country by providing more training available for teachers. The current law subjects teachers to take periodic merit examinations to determine their competency in professional education, general education and other specializations.
This measure if passed would provide additional training for teachers at least once every five years.
Is it an election move?
Critics claim that this may be a political move since Rep. Angara can no longer run for a congressional seat as he is already in his third term. He would certainly win in the 2013 elections should he manage to pull this off.
Already, the son of Senator Edgardo Angara (who is ending his fourth senate term next year) is placing 12th in the latest Pulse Asia survey.
Give teachers their due
We can no longer say that we don’t have the money to do this. After all, we had one billion dollars to lend to the IMF, didn’t we?
What we are running out of is time. Our teachers are getting impatient and the good ones are leaving for better opportunities elsewhere. In the meantime, our children are not being prepared for the future.
We need to give our public school teachers their due. Increasing their wages, improving classrooms, updating the curriculum and extending the years of schooling are just some investments we can do now to overhaul the education system of the country.

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