Teacher-lawmaker seeks 'substantial' salary hike for public school educators

MANILA, Philippines – Public school teacher-turned-legislator France Castro said it is not enough to simply increase the salaries of teachers; the pay hike should also be "substantial" given the higher prices of goods in the country.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT Teachers) representative's first privilege speech on Tuesday, July 30, was a response to President Rodrigo Duterte calling on the 18th Congress to pass a new Salary Standardization Law (SSL) that would lead to a pay hike for government employees – including public school teachers – that "may not be so big but it will tide you over."

While Castro welcomed Duterte's priority bill, she proposed that public school teachers should have their salaries increased to at least P30,000 from the current P20,754.

"The President should turn his repeated promises of salary increase into reality and include substantial salary increases in his proposed budget for the fiscal year 2020," said Castro. 

"Again, we stress the operative word 'substantial'  – hindi mumo, hindi barya, kundi substantial, makatuwiran, at nakabubuhay na suweldo para sa ating mga guro, education support personnel, at iba pang mga kawani sa pamahalaan," she added.

(Again, we stress the operative word "substantial" – not crumbs, not loose change, but substantial, reasonable, and living wage for our teachers, education support personnel, and other government workers.)

In her speech, Castro argued that the 4-year increase in the basic salaries of government workers mandated by the SSL – passed by the previous Aquino administration – is just too small, now that the Duterte government is implementing its tax reform package. 

She also said the police and the military are now earning much more than civilian employees.

Castro said that if the 18th Congress will just follow the ongoing salary increase scheme of the SSL, then public school teachers would continue getting an annual average salary hike of only P551.25. 

"Bakit tayo magsasabatas ng dagdag-suweldo na hindi nalalayo sa P500 samantalang LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) at pamasahe pa lang ay higit na sa ganitong halaga ang itinaas?" asked Castro. 

(Why would we enact a law increasing the salary by around P500 when the prices of LPG and fares alone cost more than this?)

The ACT Teachers representative then urged House members to pass House Bill No. 219, which she filed along with other progressive lawmakers of the Makabayan bloc.  

Under the bill, the entry level salary for public school teachers would be increased to P30,000, the entry-level salary for instructors in state universities and colleges would be increased to P31,000, and P16,000 would be the minimum entry-level salary for government employees. 

"Sa sektor namin sa edukasyon, sinasabi namin na 'Salary increase now na' upang idiin ang punto ng urgency at matinding pangangailangan – hindi next year, hindi next term, hindi sa indefinite o napakalabong panahon na nakapaloob sa pangakong 'Kayo na ang isusunod ko,' dahil tumataas ang mga presyo now na," said Castro.

(In our education sector, we always say, "Salary increase now" to stress the urgency and utmost need for it – not next year, not next term, not in an indefinite period of time covered by statements like, "I will serve your sector next," because the prices are increasing now.)

Under the SSL, the minimum salary for public school teachers increased from P19,077 in 2016 to P20,754 in 2019. Education Secretary Leonor Briones, however, said the government does not have the money to fund a P5,000 across-the-board salary increase for teachers. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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