02 March 2017
Reference: ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro
Solon slams DepEd removal of local allowances, Briones’s “teachers not underpaid” statement
ACT Teachers Representative France Castro scored Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones for defending the removal of allowances granted by local governments to DepEd-hired teachers from the Special Education Fund (SEF) and for saying that public school teachers are not underpaid.
In a recent statement, Briones said that “public school teachers are well-compensated which is far from the old notion that teachers are underpaid.” Any additional compensation should thus come only from “legitimate sources” such as the General Fund and not the SEF. The General Fund is the local government unit’s (LGU) annual budget from the national government while the SEF is the additional 1% levy on real properties within the LGU.
Briones cited Joint Circular 1, series of 2017 which the DepEd and the Departments of Budget and Management (DBM) and Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued on January 17. It no longer lists local allowances for DepEd-hired teachers among the expenses chargeable to the SEF. They may, however, be granted out of the General Fund (GF).
But Castro said that the new circular reversed the rules which LGUs have been following for nearly 20 years, enabling them to grant allowances from the SEF to DepEd-hired teachers. She maintained that these rules rightly classified local allowances as teachers’ expenses for “operation and maintenance of public schools” under Section 272 of Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code (LGC), which lists the allowable expenses chargeable to the SEF.
“We remind the Secretary that SEF has long been a legitimate source of teachers’ local allowances pursuant to law and the guidelines implementing this law,” said Castro, citing Joint Circular 1, series of 1998 of the three agencies. “Their new circular slashed the benefits that teachers have long been receiving, and denied to DepEd-hired teachers the funds they need for instructional materials and supplies, even furniture, for use in their classrooms and schools.”
“It is extremely disappointing for the education secretary herself to be clueless on the real plight of public school teachers. How could she miss the fact that, due to the inadequate funds for education from the annual national budgets, teachers are forced to shell out from their own pockets for expenses in the classroom and school?”
That local allowances may still be given out of the GF still is not enough because the allowances are technically not to augment salaries but for operation and maintenance expenses, clarified Castro. Even granting that LGUs can label them as for personal services, the GF of some LGUs cannot absorb local allowances without exceeding the 45% cap on personal services for provinces, cities and municipalities (55% for fourth class municipalities or lower).
“Being called ‘not underpaid’ to justify the diminution of their benefits is rubbing salt into their wounds,” Castro added. “This is the very fiction foisted by the government to deny the legitimate demand for substantial salary increases for our teachers and other government employees.”
Castro urged the DepEd, DILG, and DBM to revoke their new joint circular considering the demands of teachers and a pending legislation seeking to expressly state in the LGC local allowances to DepEd-hired teachers as allowable SEF expenses. ###