Press Release
June 19, 2020

Bong Go pushes for expanded use of Special Education Fund to give LGUs more flexibility in improving public education system amid COVID-19 crisis

Senator Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go is pushing for the passage of a measure seeking to expand the application of the Special Education Fund (SEF) to other needs of the public education system.

Go recognized the need for local government units to maximize resources in order to prepare their local educational institutions to quickly adapt to the Department of Education's policy of "Blended Learning" amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Through a proposed amendment to the Local Government Code, we can provide LGUs the flexibility they need to maximize available resources in order to help educational institutions adopt policies that can allow our students to continue their studies without exposing them to health risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," Go explained.

Previously, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Go has recommended to the education sector to innovate on ways on how to conduct teaching and learning while adhering to the physical distancing protocols and other measures set by the government.

"Gamitin ang teknolohiya na available para sa distance learning tulad ng pagkakaroon ng virtual classrooms. May airtime rin na allotted for educational programs ayon sa batas, pwede po itong gamitin bilang alternative mode of teaching and learning," he said.

The Senator also welcomed the offer of state-owned Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC-13) to use its television facilities as a remote learning platform. However, Go mentioned that in order to successfully implement "Blended Learning", it is essential to provide schools the necessary equipment and school supplies to adopt new learning techniques.

President Rodrigo Duterte also earlier suggested the use of radios as a mode of distance learning given that face-to-face teaching may not be possible at this time due to the spread of COVID-19.

"Ayaw po nating maantala ang klase, ngunit prayoridad natin lagi ang kaligtasan at kalusugan ng mga Pilipino," Go echoed.

Among Go's priority bills filed during the start of the 18th Congress, Senate Bill No. 396, or "Expanding the Purposes and Application of the Special Education Fund", provides for the expansion of the application of the additional one percent (1%) Special Education Fund tax to other items relating to education, such as the construction and repair of libraries, payment of salaries, allowances and other benefits of teaching and non-teaching personnel, to name a few.

According to Go, the proposed amendment to the current law, Republic Act No. 7160 or the "Local Government Code" which created the SEF, will make the use of the fund less restrictive and will allow LGUs to maximize their resources to adopt new education policies and learning techniques that are necessary at this time.

Under his proposed measure, the SEF may now be used for the operation and maintenance of public schools, construction and repair of school buildings and libraries, facilities and equipment. It may also be utilized for the payment of salaries, allowances and other benefits of teaching and non-teaching personnel, and competency trainings for teaching personnel.

The expansion will also allow for the use of the fund in the operation of Alternative Learning System (ALS), including payment of salaries, allowances and other benefits of ALS facilitators, educational research, purchase of books and periodicals, teaching aids, and other instructional materials.

Sports development and all other expenditures relative to the promotion of accessible public education as determined and approved by the local school board may also be funded through the SEF if Go's proposed measure is passed and enacted into law.

Further explaining his rationale for this measure, Go said that poorer LGUs heavily rely on the SEF to sustain the needs of their local education system. However, the problem is compounded by the fact that the scope of the expenses, for which SEF may be used, is limited.

"It is the poor LGUs that are hardest hit by this restriction. Nandyan naman po ang pondo, kailangan lang mabigyan natin ang LGUs ng flexibility para magamit ito upang maisaayos ang kanilang local education programs lalo na sa panahon ngayon," Go explained.

"Kailangan mag-adopt ng makabagong mga polisiya upang makapagpatuloy ng pag-aaral ang kabataan sa paraan na hindi sila mailalagay sa alanganin dahil sa pandemya. Magagamit ng LGUs ang SEF para matulungan ang DepEd maimplementa ang Blended Learning," Go noted.

Aside from adopting new educational policies in light of the COVID-19 situation, Go emphasized that the expanded use of SEF can help the public education system increase the number of graduates given the realities faced by poor students.

"Malaking tulong na libre ang tuition pero marami pa ring hindi nakakapagtapos dahil sa kakulangan ng pera para sa mga pangangailangan sa pag-aaral tulad ng notebooks, uniporme, at iba pa. Bukod sa libre makapasok sa eskwelahan, kailangan mabigyan rin ng sapat na tulong ang mga mahihirap na makapagtapos ng kanilang pag-aaral," Go emphasized.

As early as 2018, Go already called for the amendment to the Local Government Code, admitting that not all local government units are created equal. Bigger and richer LGUs are able to use their respective general funds to provide free school supplies and equipment to public school students.

"Hindi lahat ng LGUs ay pantay pantay. 'Yung mga mayayamang LGUs, kaya pondohan ang pangangailangan ng kanilang mga estudyante dahil malaki ang kanilang internal revenue allotment. May libreng notebooks, libro, uniporme, pati graduation rites at iba pang activities para mahubog ng maayos ang kabataan," Go said.

"Pero 'yung mga mahihirap na LGUs, umaasa lamang sa SEF allocation na may restrictions pa ang paggamit. Ito ang rason kung bakit gusto po nating mapalawak ang gamit ng SEF para masigurong maayos ang education system kahit saan mang parte ng bansa," he added.

Go also reminded LGUs to maximize resources properly and with utmost transparency at all times.

"Gamitin lang po ng tama ang pondong mayroon tayo para mas matulungan ang mga nangangailangan. Every centavo counts. Wala po dapat manakaw o masayang," he emphasized.

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