To improve the quality and access of education in the Philippines, it is not enough to keep public schools running. Equally important is the need to allocate funds to address critical gaps in the public education sector.
This makes budgeting a crucial part of public school administration. At the very least, authorities who set and allocate the budget need to ensure that limited resources are not taken out of the classroom where they are most needed.
At present, public schools should receive additional budget courtesy of the Special Education Fund (SEF) – an additional funding source taken from the LGUs’ property tax collections.
Who takes care of the SEF?
The Local School Board (LSB) sets and allocates the budget for the use of the SEF.
After setting the annual supplementary budget needed for the operation and maintenance of local public schools, the LSB authorizes the provincial, city, or municipal treasurer (as the case may be) to disburse funds from their share in the SEF.
In practice, it is the School Superintendent or School Supervisor who generally attends to the preparation of the LSB budget, with consultations on the budgetary content generally confined to the school principals, leaving no opportunities for teachers, parents, NGOs and other members of the community to be involved in – or at the very least, be informed of – the budgeting process.
Is the SEF spent where it is most needed?
No. The lack of guidelines on the prioritization of needs to be supported by the SEF has resulted to the inefficient and ineffective use of local education funds.
In practice, the priority in terms of SEF allocation is determined on the basis of the school’s “perceived” needs. In fact, most SEF funds are allocated to support certain less critical activities, such as the purchase of vehicles, air-conditioning units, and mobile phones; improvement of offices for school supervisors and superintendents; and sponsorship of athletic meets, cultural and scouting activities.
Sadly, the SEF is hardly used for instructional materials and/or teacher trainings – activities which are generally considered, albeit misguidedly, as the sole responsibility of the national government.
What are the problems with LSBs?
Due to the organizational slack that exists in most LSBs and the general lack of awareness on the critical gaps that require urgent attention in the education sector, the actual utilization of the SEF has largely been ineffective in addressing the deteriorating quality of basic education.
The LSB, as administrator of the SEF, has generally underperformed due to lack of data-based decision-making, among others.
The collaborative and transparent allocation of the SEF will help ensure that funds are spent to address critical education services where they are needed most
What do LSBs need to do?
To strengthen its focus on education, the LSB has to set priorities and control resources based on local needs to ensure that limited budget is allocated primarily to fund programs that will address critical educational programs and activities.
Specifically, the LSB can support projects and programs that enhance the academic performance of students by prioritizing allocations for the following programs and activities:
- Hiring additional teachers to reduce class size;
- Procurement of instructional materials;
- Investments on information technology (IT) education;
- Conduct of division-wide testing; and
- Performance-based incentives for public schools.
To make the LSB more directly responsive to the educational needs of their locality, the LSB should involve community stakeholders in the management of the SEF – from needs assessments to allocation of financial resources – by conducting community consultations and school-wide surveys that allow stakeholders to voice out their specific concerns and identify their educational priorities.
Comments may be obtained separately from the barangay officials, Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Teachers and Employees Associations as well as Department of Education (DepEd) officials and school principals. The LSB may also conduct public hearings on its proposed budget to enhance transparency and improve accountability.
By opening up the decision-making process, the LSB can develop a community-owned local education plan and budget with strong citizen participation through a transparent and participative planning and budgeting system.
Addressing critical gaps in the education sector means putting money where it is most needed – and making sure that the funds are used for programs they are intended for. Participatory and transparent planning and budgeting will make this happen.
|What’s your priority?|
Based on Republic Act No. 7160 or the Philippine Local Government Code of 1991, the SEF is primarily intended to fund the following programs and activities:
• Operation and maintenance of public schools, school facilities and equipment;
• Construction and repair of public school buildings;
• Purchase of books and periodicals;
• Undertaking of educational research; and
• Promotion of physical education (sports development) such as athletic meets.