Though local government units have been seeking additional support for education funding, Senator Win Gatchalian flagged that the utilization of the Special Education Fund (SEF) remains low.
In a Senate panel hearing on the 21st Century School Boards Act (Senate Bill No. 155) and other related measures, Gatchalian cited a report from the Department of Finance (DOF) Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF), which revealed that up to P15 billion from the SEF is underutilized.
“There seems to be a huge underutilization of the SEF. I don’t know how come that in 2021, the underutilized SEF was as big as P15 billion. I assume that the SEF is always fully utilized because every time I talk to LGUs, there seems to be a big need on the ground for additional support to their education needs,” said Gatchalian, author of Senate Bill No. 155.
During the hearing, BLGF Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Ma. Pamela Quizon reported that in 2019, the utilization rate of the SEF was only 66.7%. For 2020 and 2021, the utilization rates of the SEF were 67.9% and 63.8%, respectively. The BLGF official added that based on the reports of LGUs, the reasons for the SEF’s low utilization include procurement issues and the limitation on where it can be utilized.
Gatchalian asked the BLGF to present to the Senate Committee on Local Government its analysis on the SEF’s low utilization. He also asked the BLGF to identify where LGUs are having challenges when it comes to using the SEF so they can be covered in the proposed expansion of the fund’s use.
Under the 21st Century School Boards Act, which he filed, Gatchalian is proposing to expand the use of the SEF to cover, among others, the salaries and wages of teachers and non-teaching personnel assigned to public elementary and secondary schools, operation and maintenance of ALS programs, salaries and wages of pre-school teachers, capital outlay for pre-schools, and honorarium and allowances for teachers and non-teaching personnel for services rendered outside of school hours.
Under the Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7160), the SEF is sourced from the once percent tax on real property. The SEF is allotted to the local school board for the operation and maintenance of school buildings and the construction and repair of school buildings.