To help schools prepare for a safe reopening this coming school year, Senator Win Gatchalian is seeking more flexibility on the use of the Special Education Fund (SEF) allotted to local school boards.
According to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, giving local school boards more leeway on the use of the SEF will provide much-needed additional resources to protect learners, teachers, and school personnel from the threat of COVID-19.
Gatchalian said that under Section 4 of the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act (Republic Act 11469), the President can authorize the expanded use of SEF as part of his power to adopt temporary emergency measures.
While the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is yet to issue guidelines on how the SEF may be used for schools’ COVID-19 response, Gatchalian proposed that these funds be used as additional funding for localized testing of teachers, learners, and personnel.
The Department of Education is still in the process of realigning its own budget to respond to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, the need to invest on information and communications technology devices in the absence of face-to-face interaction.
Gatchalian said that the SEF can be used to buy disinfection materials and other public heath supplies such as soap, alcohol, thermometers, and sanitizers. Programs and activities that raise awareness on COVID-19, including training teachers and personnel for emergency response, should also be a priority for SEF use, Gatchalian said.
“Marami na ang mababago. Now that we are preparing our schools for the ‘new normal’ education, we have to make sure that we tap all possible resources to address the need for some changes in learning methodologies,” said Gatchalian.
“Ang paggamit sa Special Education Fund ang isa sa mga pinakamabilis na hakbang na maaari nating gawin upang mabigyan ng agarang tulong ang ating mga paaralan. Ngayong pinaghahandaan natin ang ligtas na pagbubukas ng klase, kinakailangan ng ating mga paaralan ang lahat ng maaaring suporta at tulong pinansyal upang labanan ang patuloy na banta ng COVID-19,” he added.
The SEF consists of the shares of provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays in the proceeds of the additional one percent tax on real property. Section 272 of the Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7160) allows the use of the SEF for the operation and maintenance of public schools, construction and repair of school buildings, facilities and equipment, educational research, purchase of books and periodicals, and sports development among others.
Under the Local Government Code, local school boards in provinces, cities, and municipalities need to authorize local treasurers for the disbursement of funds under the SEF. These local school boards are chaired by the local chief executives and co-chaired by the division schools superintendent, the city schools superintendent, or the district supervisor of schools.