Tarlac parents, students slam excessive fees

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TARLAC: Parents, students and their supporters staged a rally here protesting the alleged excessive and illegal fees imposed by officials of Tarlac National High School (TNHS) and anomalous spending of their organization’s fund.

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The allegations stemmed from the P950 collected each from about 7,243 students last year, prompting the students and parents with some teachers to stage a series of mass actions, which ran on its third day on Tuesday.

Protesters said the contribution violates the “no collection policy” of the Department of Education (DepEd).
Matthew Santiago of Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Tarlac said the TNHS defied the DepEd order prohibiting the collection of fees.

“It would not have come this point if only the TNHS officials agreed to a dialogue with students, teachers and parents,” he added.

Santiago said they also requested for an audience with DepEd-Tarlac executives but to no avail.

Candida Tiglao, a retired teacher, said the contribution served as added burden to parents who are helpless in voicing out their sentiments.

But officers of the General Parents-Teachers Association (GPTA) and TNHS teachers decried the allegations, calling them foul.

They claim that charges against them and the school principal, Yolanda Gonzales, are a product of propaganda to oust the latter because of her strict policies in the financial affairs of the school and its operations.

Among the allegations against Gonzales and the GPTA are the P120 collection for identification card; test paper fees; withholding students’ freedom of expression; coercion; conspiracy; absence of transparency on the GPTA’s financial status; interference in the affairs of the Supreme Student Government; filing of cases against students who joined the protest; compulsory attendance in Saturday classes; overtime load for teachers including disapproval of a solo-parent request of a teacher; dishonesty in forms 137 and 138 regarding PE subjects; and failure to comply with the Teacher’s Clearance policy.

Gonzales has denied the claims, but refused to defend herself and instead let the GPTA and the faculty do so.
GPTA president Edwin Garcia said the P950 contribution was purely voluntary and intended for the improvement of school facilities and operations based on a resolution of the association.

The resolution stated that the P250 PTA fee of should be paid first, then the P500 miscellaneous fee and P200 information-communication technology fee on staggered basis.

“Part of the contribution also went to other expenses that can no longer be shouldered by the school for lack of funds like attendance in press conferences; sports, cultural, and academic competitions; Brigada Eskuwela; and school facilities like closed-circuit television cameras and television set,” Garcia said.

He added that the school management and the GPTA remained open for dialogue but the protesters did not meet with them.

Former GPTA president Romy Tacbian, on the other hand, said parents were properly informed about the agreed projects of the association even after the turnover of positions to the current set of officers.

“We didn’t release funds without the request of a department or group for support. And we made sure there is liquidation included in school improvement plan,” he added, noting the school’s dramatic improvement.

Orlando Alejo Jr., TNHS faculty president, said the school workforce is united in support of Gonzales, the same way the latter is supportive of them and the students.

“It is unfair to say she [Gonzales] held students’ cards for non-payment of dues. In fact, some either did not even pay a single centavo or paid only a portion of the voluntary contribution,” he added.

Alejo was referring to 45 senior high school students whose cards were temporarily kept for participating in the rallies. The students, however, were enrolled after their parents talked to the school management.

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