THE Department of Education (DepEd) should be able to roll out and finish all education projects in time for the opening of classes in June, even with the coming May 9 national and local polls because the projects are exempted from the public-works ban imposed during election season, according to Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto.
Recto said there is no excuse not to ramp up construction of needed classrooms because “critical education projects are exempted from [the]election ban, more so if they have been approved before the start of the campaign season.
This year, 43,000 classrooms will be built at a cost of P61.8 billion while P18.8 billion will be spent on the initial year’s salaries of 62,320 newly-hired or newly-promoted teachers.
Of the 43,000 new classrooms, 23,000 classrooms are for the Grades 11 and 12, or what constitute senior high school.
Recto said building classrooms or hiring teachers should have begun in January when the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2016, which authorized funding, took effect.
“With classes in public schools now ended, education officials should also use the summer break to hire teachers and buy equipment so all of these will be ready when 21 million students return to schools in June,” he added.
Recto, who also heads the Senate sub-committee on finance, said there should be no repeat of the “horrible delays” that plagued classroom-construction and teacher-hiring in the past.
In 2014, DepEd was given P2.56 billion to purchase Grades 1 to 3 science and math kits but, Recto said, not a single kit was bought that year or even by mid-2015.
The following year, Congress appropriated P4 billion for kits for Grades 4 to 6 math and science classes but again not a single kit had been purchased by July of 2015.
A similar problem hounded teacher recruitment, wherein DepEd was given P9.35 billion in the 2015 national budget to fund 39,066 teacher positions but not one teacher was recruited in time for the June opening of classes.
Construction of new classrooms also suffered serious delays in 2015 when not a single classroom out of 41,728 new classrooms programmed for that year was ready for occupancy by July 1, 2015.
“Putting these resources in place should be the Aquino administration’s education legacy. When the President bows out of office in June, teachers should have been hired and classrooms inaugurated,” Recto said.
He noted that with the enrolment of the first batch of Grade 11 students under the K to 12 basic education program this June, the government needs to have the education projects completed on time.