Budget Watch

Funds for students with special needs slashed in DepEd’s 2023 proposed budget

Bonz Magsambol
Funds for students with special needs slashed in DepEd’s 2023 proposed budget
(1st UPDATE) While the DepEd has not able to request budget for students with special needs, a total of P150 million is set aside for confidential funds

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Education (DepEd) said on Monday, September 19, it initially proposed a P532-million budget for students with special needs for 2023, but this was excluded in the National Expenditure Program (NEP).

“Despite our earnest efforts to advocate for learners with special needs, it was not considered in the National Expenditure Program,” the DepEd said.

“This is a recurring circumstance every year, and the DepEd is not at loss because we always work with members of the Congress to find other ways to fund DepEd programs.

In a text message to reporters, DepEd spokesman Michael Poa explained that in 2021, no amount was allotted for the Special Education Program (SPED) under the NEP, but was eventually given a budget of P329 million. 

In 2022, SPED was allowed with P297 million under NEP, and the budget was increased to P560 million later on. 

‘No sufficient documentation’

In a statement on Monday, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said that while the DepEd proposed the retention of the line item for the Special Education Program in their proposed 2023 budget, “no sufficient documentation was provided.”

“Please be informed that as of June 30, 2022, the SPED program under the FY 2022 GAA has an obligation rate of 1.13%, or only P6.35 million out of P560.202 million allocation. This funding provision will still be valid until December 31, 2023,” the DBM added. 

The budget agency also said “items may be realigned and modified by the implementing agency to accommodate the requirements of any program that is in dire need of additional resources.”

While the DepEd was not able to request a budget for students with special needs, a total of P150 million was set aside for confidential funds.

Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte defended the inclusion of confidential funds in the agency’s budget. “The success of a project, of activity or program really depends upon very good intelligence and surveillance because you want to target specific issues and challenges,” Duterte said. She added that the confidential funds would be used for security and surveillance.

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Security and surveillance? Duterte defends DepEd’s P150-million confidential funds

Security and surveillance? Duterte defends DepEd’s P150-million confidential funds

“In the past years, DepEd has likewise made efforts within the organization to ensure that programs are supported,” the agency said.

While the DepEd hurdled the budget deliberations at the House committee on appropriations on Wednesday, September 14, the Senate would also conduct its own deliberations before going into plenary.

For the previous school year, the country had 38,914 students with special needs. The DepEd has yet to release updated enrollment data for the student group. – Rappler.com

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.