Press Release
November 11, 2019

SBN 1092: Teaching Supplies Allowance Act

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto
11 November 2019

Mr. President:

It has been said that what the teacher writes on the blackboard of life can never be erased.

But we, on the other hand, can erase and change the amount of the annual "chalk allowance" our public school teachers get.

Which is what this bill precisely sets out to do - erasing "P3,500" and replacing it with "P5,000."

In this age of PowerPoint, when USBs now form part of the public school teachers' tool kit, "chalk allowance" remains as the popular term for the "teaching supplies allowance" they get at the start of the school year.

The money is for consumable teaching supplies like pens, paper, cartolinas, paste, erasers, and in this digital age, for USBs, and even tingi-tingi internet load.

If teaching is performance art, the chalk allowance allows our teachers to buy the required stage props.

At present, the chalk allowance is P3,500 per year, which translates to about P16 a day. Per student, it comes up to a daily allocation of 50 centavos, each. Sinkwenta sentimos bawat mag-aaral kada araw.

If you spend it for bond paper, 16 pesos will likely get you the same number of A4s at the corner sari-sari store.

If spent for internet load, 16 pesos can buy you data which won't even allow you to download half an episode of Ang Probinsyano.

This brings me to another reason why we should increase the teaching supplies allowance. Teachers now need more buck for bytes because they have mountains and gigabytes of reports they have to submit.

Mas marami pang homework ang nagtuturo kaysa sa tinuturuan. Computers ought to be tools of liberation technology. They have instead become instruments of digital enslavement.

The bottom line is that the chalk allowance is not enough. This forces our teachers to spend their own money buying more supplies.

This is the reason why, for four Congresses now, I have been campaigning to raise the chalk allowance.

Fortunately, we have managed to, pun intended, chalk up small victories along the way.

In 2014, when the then administration proposed P1,000, I lobbied to have it increased to P1,500, and with the support of then Finance chair Chiz Escudero, it was approved by the Senate, and included in the 2015 national budget.

The P1,500 soon became the P3,500 of today. But because it is still not enough, I have since campaigned for a higher amount - P10,000 which is what my Senate Bill No. 42 seeks.

So when the committee report proposed P5,000, I signed on. Because a half-box of chalk is better than an empty one.

My years in Congress have taught me the value of compromise--that it would be better to go home with half a loaf of bread than none at all. That 50 percent of 1 is better than 100 percent of zero.

But let me still argue for my P10,000 proposal, because it is feasible and far from being fiscally irresponsible.

Magkano po ba ang kabuuang budget para sa chalk allowance sa ngayon, base sa kasalukuyang P3,500 kada guro? 2.9 billion pesos.

The simple arithmetic is that if we increase it to P5,000, it will only entail an additional P1.25 billion pesos.

If we raise it to P10,000, we will be needing another P5.4 billion.

Chalk dust lang po ito in this era of the mega-trillion annual government expenditures. Compare the P5.4 billion to this year's P17.2 billion travel budget for the national government personnel.

Ang isang bagay na dapat din nating tandaan ay hindi napupunta sa bulsa ng mga teachers ang chalk allowance. Sa totoo lang, abonado pa nga sila.

So there is no way that this allowance, no matter the amount, will enrich them. It, however, enriches the way they teach. The end beneficiaries are the audience of their daily performance - our children.

So if they are the ones who shall benefit, then teaching supplies allowance is not an expenditure, but an investment that yields the highest social and economic ROI.

In closing, let me remind you that chalk allowance is to teachers as what bullets are to soldiers. And those waging the war against illiteracy need more of this ammunition.

If we are not asking our soldiers to buy their own bullets, then why should we be forcing our teachers to buy their own provisions in fighting illiteracy?

Thus, I urge you, my dear colleagues, to approve this bill, with the amended amount of P10,000.

This is not a case of us being generous, but us giving the teachers what is rightfully theirs.

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