20,000 K to 12 vocational labs to suffer due to P30-B DepEd budget cut
MANILA, Philippines – Grade 11 and 12 students under the technical-vocational track will be at a disadvantage following the realignment of P30 billion of the proposed 2018 budget of the Department of Education (DepEd) to fund the free tuition law.
This is because around 20,000 technical-vocational laboratories set to be built in 2018 will no longer have funding due to the budget cut, DepEd Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla told Rappler.
"Kasi P36 billion ang budget for tech-voc labs in the proposal. So if they get P30 billion, matitira lang ay P6 billion... Magkukulang kami ng labs for that," Sevilla said.
(The budget for tech-voc labs in the proposal is at P36 billion. So if they get P30 billion, only P6 billion will be left... We will not have enough to build the labs.)
The DepEd initially proposed P612.117 billion for its budget for next year, the highest among all government agencies. But the House of Representatives realigned P30 billion of the DepEd's budget to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to help fund Republic Act No. 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.
Lawmakers are finding ways to fund the free tuition law, which needs P51 billion in its first year of implementation alone. CHED did not include funds for the law's implementation in its 2018 proposed budget because President Rodrigo Duterte was not expected to sign the measure into law.
"The wisdom of Congress is that we have the voucher program of tech-voc, which means we have to shift from DepEd providing the laboratory services to a private institution providing it instead," said Sevilla.
The DepEd official, however, said they will be holding several meetings with lawmakers in the next weeks to lessen the budget cut's impact on the technical-vocational strand under the Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K to 12) program.
"We are working with Congress if it would be possible that not entirely the P30 billion will be from the tech-voc labs. Maybe we can look into other programs," said Sevilla.
In a separate press conference, CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan urged legislators to also consider other ways of funding the free tuition law without further burdening students.
"Congress has to proceed very carefully here. This is a very good fund [for the free tuition law]. But to take [the budget away] from another very important program and then to put it there, in the end, students will also suffer," said Licuanan.
CHED stands to receive billions of pesos in additional budget for its free tuition law implementation. Senators already plan to add another P1.6 billion to CHED's budget next year for state universities and colleges' expenses on infrastructure, equipment, and free internet services. – Rappler.com