Can federalism solve PH's education funding woes?
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Former Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel, Jr said in a forum here on Friday, July 1, that his federalism proposal will enable local governments to pour in more funds for education as they will have greater control over their revenues.
"In a federal system, states can keep 80% of their revenues and remit 20% to the national government," Pimentel said, in comparison to the status quo where LGUs keep only 40%.
The principal author of the Local Government Code said the central government will still be in charge of appropriating funds for public education but "without prejudice to the federal states."
"Federal states can also pass laws governing education budgets in their region," Pimentel's staff, Clarisse Aquino, said.
The opening of classes in June brought in reports of classroom shortages in regions with delays in completing the buildings for senior high students. (READ: Luistro on first day of Grade 11 rollout: 'Best class opening thus far')
Regional offices of Department of Education (DepEd) have been advising schools with classroom shortages to "construct makeshifts, utilize offices or college facilities" and other temporary measures to mitigate the problem.
These problems with regional schools are usually attributed to the "highly-centralized" operations of the DepEd. Parents would testify of requests for school improvements outstaying different principals before it is responded to.
Education advocates present in the forum believe that the greater share of funds won't necessarily solve the funding problem as local governments need technical capacity too to run schools.
"There needs to be an earmark for budgeting for education in the national level," Education Budget Watch Project Head Marlon Cornelio said. "For example, passing a Six Will Fix law to automatically fund 6% of the gross domestic product (GDP) to education."
"Similar laws can be passed in local levels," Cornelio added.
He cited Naga City as a good practice of local education governance where local school boards have definite education output targets.
For Ernesto Neri, a local school board member in CDO, the greater share of funds from federal states can be a good measure to bridge the education gap.
In his experience, the classrooms built in Cagayan de Oro rely mostly on the Special Education Fund (SEF), an additional 1% levy collected with real property taxes paid to the city.
But Neri warns that smaller municipalities with smaller internal revenues might not be able to maximize their output for schools.
Pimentel's staff said that changing the Constitution should iron out provisions on education budgets.
"Federalism is not the silver bullet to every problem," Pimentel said. "But there are laws that can be passed to make federalism work." – Rappler.com
Justine Raphael Luis Balane is a 4th year Mass Communication student in the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu, where he also serves as the chairperson of the student council.