Press Release
August 31, 2020

Bong Go renews call for expanded SEF application; urges DepEd to ensure students and teachers are adequately prepared for new school year when it starts

Senator Christopher "Bong" Go renewed calls for the passage of a bill giving local government units the flexibility to use the Special Education Fund (SEF) to assist local public schools in their implementation of the Department of Education's Basic Education - Learning Continuity Plan.

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

The SEF is generated from an annual one percent tax on real property and is automatically released to local school boards.

Under Senate Bill No. 396 which Go filed last year, the use of SEF will be expanded to cover expenditures that improve access to public education, as determined by a local school board, such as the operation of alternative learning systems (ALS), including the payment of salaries, allowances and other benefits of ALS facilitators; purchase of teaching aids and other instructional materials; competency training for teaching personnel; and payment of salaries, allowances and other benefits of teaching and non-teaching personnel.

The ALS is a substitute learning system offered by DepEd for individuals who do not or cannot access formal education in schools. It provides such students an opportunity to complete their basic education in a manner that fits their special situations and needs.

SBN 396 was one of many priority bills filed by Go at the start of the 18th Congress in 2019. If passed, it will amend Section 272 of the Code which imposes strict restrictions on the use of the SEF. Presently, the use of the fund is limited to the operation and maintenance of public schools, construction and repair of school buildings, facilities and equipment, educational research, purchase of books and periodicals, and sports development.

The Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, led by Quirino Governor and ULAP President, Dakila Carlo E. Cua, had expressed their support for the bill.

Amid the ongoing pandemic, the education department shifted to blended or flexible learning to comply with President Rodrigo Duterte's directive to ban face-to-face classes until a vaccine for COVID-19 is available.

Three methods will be used to deliver lessons to students in their homes: (1) printed modules to be delivered to students without gadgets or access to the internet; (2) online platforms to be used for students with access to the internet; and (3) public television and radio stations to be used to air lessons.

Malacañang decided to postpone the start of the 2020-2021 school year from August 24 to October 5 to give more time for students, parents, teachers, learning institutions and education authorities to better prepare for the new modes of learning and teaching, taking into consideration the adverse socio-economic impact that the pandemic caused to the lives of Filipino families.

The Senator issued a reminder to DepEd to use the additional time to help schools and families adapt to the new modes of learning.

"Alam kong maraming mahihirapan sa pag-adjust lalo na ang mga mahihirap nating mga estudyante. Kaya ako po ay nakikiusap muli na bigyan natin ng konsiderasyon ang ating mga estudyante para hindi po maipasa sa kanila ang pasakit ng pag-adjust sa makabagong paraan ng pag-aaral," Go appealed.

He also encouraged all concerned authorities and the private sector to work together and make sure that teachers are adequately equipped and trained to use the online learning platforms.

"Kaya ko nasabi na sana walang bumagsak ay 'out of compassion' sa kanilang pinagdadaanan. Importante rin masigurong handa ang mga teachers natin. Kailangan handa sila na gumamit ng mga makabagong paraan para masigurong hindi makompromiso ang matututunan ng estudyante," he said.

Go said that government must continue to improve the education system despite the ongoing health crisis and bridge the gaps of learning without giving more stress mentally, emotionally, and financially to Filipino families.

"Siguraduhin natin na may pantay pantay na oportunidad ang mga bata na makapag-aral kahit saan mang parte ng bansa sila naroon at anumang estado nila sa buhay. Bigyan din natin ng konsiderasyon ang marami nating kababayan na walang pambili ng kagamitan, walang access sa internet at walang pambayad sa matrikula at iba pang gastusin dahil nawalan ng trabaho ang pamilya dulot ng epekto ng pandemya," he said.

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