The Makabayan bloc on Wednesday filed a resolution to restore State Universities and Colleges’ (SUC) budget cuts, and urged Congress to allocate funds for safe schools reopening.
In filing House Resolution 403, Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene D. Brosas and Act Teachers Rep. France Castro said in the proposed 2023 national budget, SUCs are about to receive a total budget of P93.08 billion, a decrease of P10.89 billion or 10.48 percent from this year’s total budget of P103.97 billion.
The lawmakers said 81 out of 116 SUCs are set to incur cuts in their overall budget. Alongside this, 115 schools are set to sustain cuts in their operating budget, 83 schools are set to sustain cuts in their capital outlay, and 17 schools are set to sustain cuts in their personnel services.
“Cuts in operating costs will adversely impact the capacity of SUCs to safely reopen their campuses for full face-to-face classes amid the Covid-19 pandemic. SUCs have also been given limited fiscal space for capital outlay, which they strive to augment with their own revenue-generating sources,” the resolution read.
Lawmakers also urged Congress to provide an immediate supplementary budget necessary for the safe reopening of schools and to add funding for it in the 2023 national education budget.
“There is also a need to provide an immediate supplementary budget to facilitate further the safe reopening of schools through funding of Proper Ventilation of Learning Spaces, On-Campus Health Facilities and Supplies, Hiring of Human Resources for Health, Support for Private Educational Institutions, Medical Fund for Free Treatment, Internet Allowance for Teachers, Devices for Teachers, Compensation for Work Rendered in Excess of Teaching Hours and Additional Compensation for Co-curricular Activities, Hazard Pay for Teachers and Education Personnel, and Student Aid,” the resolution added.
Manuel said he believes that the challenges that SUCs face are further compounded by the insufficient funding for capital and equipment outlay given to schools affected by natural disasters like recent typhoons and earthquakes.
“For years, our constituents have called for greater state funding for education. An additional budget is needed for our learning institutions to regain their public character and provide ample support for student services and faculty development. If our state universities and colleges are to be expected to perform duties at their duties, they must be funded accordingly,” said the resolution.
In a joint statement, 20 SUC administrators said there is also a budget cut for the Free Higher Education Program under the proposed budget for SUCs in 2023 amounting to P1.8 billion.
“Cuts in operating costs will adversely impact the capacity of SUCs to safely implement face-to-face classes while Covid-19 still lingers,” said the statement.
“SUCs have also been given limited fiscal space for capital outlay which they strive to augment with their own revenue-generating sources. This is also amidst widespread damages wrought to several SUCs by typhoons and earthquakes from which they have not yet fully recovered. This necessitates more funding for learning spaces, acquisition of equipment, and restoration of damaged facilities, among others,” it added.
The SUC administrators said an additional budget is needed for learning institutions to regain their public character and provide ample support for student services and faculty development.
“If our state universities and colleges are to be expected to do their duties, they must be funded accordingly. We call for the restoration of budget cuts to our SUCs as these cuts only add to the challenges that SUCs face,” the statement added.
Eating up funds
Meanwhile, House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. Castro revealed that allocations for programs and projects of the government have consistently declined with more debt service eating up the national budget.
“No wonder allocations in the proposed 2023 national budget for services and projects have been cut, our national budget for primary expenditures continues to decline with the growing allocation for debt service. This despite the increasing overall budget for the national government,” Castro said.
Citing the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD), Castro said “debt service growth in 2023 is relatively high at 12.9 percent compared to the overall budget growth of only 4.9 percent. The same pattern is true for 2021 and 2022.”
“As a result, the portion of the total national budget that goes to debt service has steadily increased from 9.7 percent in 2021 to 11.6 percent in 2023. Primary expenditures, which is the total expenditures less debt service, for 2023 amount to P4,657.0 billion, which is only 3.9 percent higher than its 2022 level,” she added.
Castro said, “With this pattern and this kind of prioritization of the national budget, our government clearly has no plan to raise the education budget to 6 percent of the GDP, a substantial salary increase for teachers and other government employees will again fall on empty promises, and funds for the benefits of nurses and other healthcare workers will continue to decline and remain unfunded.” -30-