To ensure that every region in the country has a model Inclusive Learning Resource Center (ILRC) for Learners with Disabilities, Senator Win Gatchalian is proposing to increase the Department of Education’s capital outlay budget for Special Education (SPED) from P96 million to P160 million.
The P96 million allocation was intended for the conversion of 16 SPED Centers nationwide to ILRCs, which are mandated to deliver free support services to learners with disabilities, including language and speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical and physiotherapy, provision of qualified sign language interpreters, and other similar services, aids, and actions that facilitate the learning process. These centers are also mandated to implement inclusive education programs. The minimum funding requirement for the conversion of SPED Centers, however, ranges from P8 million to P10 million.
“This representation sincerely recommends that we increase the budget of capital outlay from P96 million to P160 million just to convert SPED centers in all regions, and we will have one model ILRC per region,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, during his interpellation of the proposed DepEd budget for 2023.
The senator added that he will submit his proposals on potential funding sources to the Senate Committee on Finance.
Gatchalian pointed out that ensuring funds for SPED is aligned with Republic Act No. 11650 or “Instituting a Policy of Inclusion and Services for Learners with Disabilities in Support of Inclusive Education Act,” which he sponsored during the 18th Congress.
The law mandates that the Department of Education (DepEd), in collaboration with local government units (LGUs), shall initially establish and maintain at least one ILRC in all cities and municipalities. The law further provides that all existing SPED Centers shall be converted to and renamed ILRCs.
Gatchalian has been emphasizing the need to ensure support for learners with disabilities, especially because they were among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. DepEd data as of March 14, 2022 reveals that there were 126,598 learners with disabilities enrolled in DepEd schools for School Year (SY) 2021-2022, 65% lower than the 360,879 recorded for SY 2019-2020.