Teachers renew calls for 'urgent' salary hike as classes open

MANILA, Philippines – As the Department of Education (DepEd) opened a new school year on Monday, June 3, public school teachers reiterated their call for higher pay, saying many of the country's 800,000 teachers have been struggling to make ends meet.

Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Secretary General Raymond Basilio said the lack of decent pay for teachers continued to be the "biggest and most urgent shortage" in the education system. (READ: Classroom shortages greet teachers, students in opening of classes)

"This dire economic situation has caused great frustration among teachers, as evidenced by the persistent clamor for pay hike. Be it school opening, graduation period, or vacation time, teachers ache for just compensation," Basilio said in a statement Monday. (WATCH: Why do teachers teach?)

Under the 4th tranche of the Salary Standardization Law, entry-level public school teachers have a Salary Grade 11, which amounts to P20,754. This is followed by "Teacher 2" salaries worth P22,938.

Basilio warned that if teachers' pay remained low, it could affect the quality of education of students. Aside from their low pay, teachers earlier raised concerns about their increased workload that has taken time away from actual teaching.

"Teachers' working conditions are the students' learning conditions. No amount of sacrifice and effort on the part of the teachers will suffice to cover up the state's neglect of the education sector," Basilio said.

There have been several calls from teachers and Malacañang itself to raise teachers' salaries. No less than President Rodrigo Duterte said in July 2016 that he wanted an increase in teachers' salaries.

Despite this, teachers' demands remain unanswered. In 2018, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had said it would study the suggestion "carefully" as it would cost the government an additional P343.7 billion in Personnel Services costs.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones echoed this in a press conference on Monday.

"The Department of Budget and Management is studying not only the salary of teachers but of the entire public service sector because it's hard for government to raise the salary of one sector and leave out the rest. That would widen the gap," Briones said. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.