School opening puts the education sector in spotlight and the perennial problems are tackled over and over. This year, we would like to mention several issues, which the teachers would like to challenge the government with. These are the same issues which we included in pour prayer intention in churches yesterday. These issues are a number of our proposals, which we believe should be given priority and would certainly boost, not just the morale of public school teachers, but the quality of education as well:
1. Enough funds for K12 Program or postponement of its implementation Sufficient fund for education sector is needed to implement the ambitious K-12 basic education cycle, Aquino government’s flagship program for education sector. If the program aims to reach the high standard and put the Philippine schools at with the rest of the world, then the input should also be world-class. If not, the DepEd may consider postponement of its implementation until the system is fully prepared.
2. P3000 additional allowance for teachers Granting of P3000 increase in teachers and government employees’ Personal Emergency Relief Allowance or PERA, which currently amounting to P2000 and the latest adjustment (an increase of P500) was done in year 2006. The PERA is the government counterpart of the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) for the private sector, which supposedly adjusted depending on the cost of living in particular area and time.
3. Upgrading of teachers’ salaries thru the enactment of P9000 increase A reiteration of teachers’ appeal to lawmakers and Malacanang to consider the passing of the bill, “Additional Support and Compensation for Public School Teachers” which will grant them a P9000 pay increase among other benefits, in line with the salary upgrading principles. This is the government’s supposed respond to rectify the decades-long error of placing the teachers in a very low position in government salary classification. Said proposal was extensively tackled during the 14th Congress but was eventually overshadowed by Arroyo administration’s SSL-3. This year, the last tranche of increase under the SSL-3 will be given and the bill was re-filed in Senate by its original author, minority leader Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano.
4. Repeal of Compulsory Poll Duties of teachers Year 2013 is another election year, and as in the past, teachers will once again be in charge of the polls which will expose them to health risk, harassment and other physical hazards and legal problems in performance of their mandated duty, while being paid very minimal compensation. While most of them consider election work as patriotic duty, teachers want to make this optional to ensure the government protection and proper compensation.
5. Provision of socialized housing and other benefits for teachers Implement the spirit of constitutional provision that says: “The state shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education and ensure that teaching will attract and retain its rightful share of the best available talents through adequate remuneration and other means of job satisfaction and fulfillment” by providing a socialized housing for teachers; entitlement of the teachers to paid vacation, sick and privilege leave benefits; lowering of compulsory retirement age; tax reduction for teachers; and scholarship program for their children among others.
6. More funds to Kindergarten program and just and compensation to kinder teachers
Kindergarten system which is a very important foundation of basic learning skills should be given special attention. Construction of classrooms, purchase of facilities and teaching materials especially made for pre-schoolers and hiring of specially-trained teachers with enough compensation should be the priority of Aquino administration rather than the expansion of basic education to 12 years. The present honorarium in the amount of P3000 per month for a 3-hour daily teaching is unacceptable; it violates existing laws on teachers’ working hours and remuneration and only proves that the government is not ready for this big shift. Kindergarten is a fundamental component of K-12 and the entire program is dependent upon it.
7. End contractualization of teachers both in public and private schools Create new teaching positions based on actual needs and prioritize the assignment of incumbent locally-paid teachers to vacant or newly created permanent teaching positions from the national government and compel the LGUs to enforce the provision of Magna Carta which states that: “The salary scales of teachers whose salaries are appropriated by a city, municipal, municipal district, or provincial government, shall not be less than those provided for teachers of the National Government.” Security of tenure- both for private and public employees and workers is a constitutional right, the Department of Education should guarantee the protection of such.
Despite the miserable condition in public schools, we still anticipate a successful school year and we to do everything, even beyond our capacity to make this school year fruitful for the Filipino children and the entire nation. Thus, even with our grievances due to government’s failure to prioritize teachers and education sector, we will be back to our respective classes today to meet our students- with a smile. They are, after all the reason why we chose this great profession- this vocation. #