Private schools group decries budget cut in DepEd’s voucher program
MANILA, Philippines – A group of private schools is urging lawmakers to prevent budget cuts in the government’s senior high school voucher program, which may affect over a million students in as many as 4,000 private senior high schools all over the country.
The Department of Education (DepEd) originally proposed P52 billion for its Government Assistance and Subsidies (GAS) program in 2020, but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) approved only P31.18 billion. This is lower than the P32.12 billion allotted for the program in the 2019 budget.
The Educational Service Contracting (ESC) Scheme and the Senior High School (SHS) Voucher Program, which private education institutions benefit from, fall under GAS subsidies. These programs assist private school students with tuition fees and teachers with salaries.
The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea), in a statement released Tuesday, September 17, said an unintended consequence of the reduced budget was the possible “massive migration of students and teachers from the private schools to the public school system beyond its absorptive capacity.”
Education Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla said during a September 12 budget hearing in the Senate that the number of students benefitting from the subsidies could go down to 766,995 next year from 1,225,688 this year.
Sevilla said they are working with the DBM to ensure enough funding for the program.
“Education is perhaps the most important function of the State,” Cocopea said. The group “believes that education is a public good, regardless whether this duty is realized through the public school system or through the certified private schools.”
The group also said supporting the DepEd’s partnerships with private schools is “grounded on the principle of public-private partnership and on the Constitutional principle of complementarity.”
'Not for profit'
Cocopea also refuted a teachers’ group’s claim that government subsidies are for private schools’ profit.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) had said that the subsidies had been “eating up the education coffers as private schools get profits and accumulate assets while we [public school teachers] are left with nothing every start of the school year.”
To this, Cocopea said private school teachers also get a salary subsidy from the DepEd programs, “and hence would likewise be affected if the ESC scheme is discontinued.”
The group said ensuring funds for the subsidies “would give [private school students] more access to quality education with the freedom to choose their schools from among the public and accredited private schools in the country.” – Rappler.com