Senate to DepEd: Validate, itemize list of projects
MANILA - The Department of Education (DepEd) failed to get a thumbs-up from the Senate Finance Committee after seemingly lump-sum classroom projects in the proposal were discovered by the solons.
DepEd officials denied during their initial presentation before the panel of the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday that their budget for next year included some P37 billion worth of lump sum projects.
"They are not lump sum budget, it will be explained to you (senators) in detail," Education Secretary Armin Luistro said, addressing the panel led by Senate Finance Committee chair Sen. Francis Escudero.
He said the alleged lump sum amount is intended for 43,183 new classrooms that will be built by 2014. He said the locations for the projects are properly identified.
Senator Ralph Recto yesterday said the P37 billion of DepEd is one of the 10 initial lump sum items he found in the 2014 General Appropriations Act.
DepEd officials admitted, however, that the list of locations where the classrooms will be built is still in progress.
Recto said he wonders how the agency came up with the number and amount to be spent when the list of classroom projects is still being worked out.
"We’re already allocating pero hindi pa natin alam kung saan," Recto said. "Baka mamaya sa listahan nyo wala nang space sa lugar na yun."
Escudero required Luistro to come up with a more detailed itemized list by end of October before the committee approves and endorses for plenary stage the agency's proposed budget.
"We will not let your budget go to plenary unless you have a validated list of the project,” he said.
Luistro replied: "We have a list, but we need more time to validate it.”
Escudero said at least P55 billion worth of projects were considered lump sum and are subject for itemization. This includes also the locations of where the new chairs, teachers and computer sets will be distributed.
The DepEd is proposing a total of P337.9 billion budget for 2014, which is 15.2% higher than the P293.4 billion budget of 2013. Bulk of the budget is allocated to building 43,183 new classrooms which will be worth P37.7 billion; hiring of some 33,194 new teachers worth P7.9 billion; 1.5 million new chairs worth P1.1 billion; 13,586 new water and sanitation facilities worth P1.4 billion; 491 High School and 15,475 Elementary School computer packages worth P3.5 billion; and 1 million grantees of Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) worth P7.4 billion.
Recto and Senator Pia Cayetano also asked if there has been an improvement in the quality of education the department has been offering to the country's children.
DepEd admitted there has been a modest improvement in the National Achievement Scores of Elementary and High School students.
The scores barely improved from the previous 66% to 69% this year for elementary, while a slight increase from the previous 47% to 51% this year for secondary level scores.
Luistro said this remains a challenge. The target is to improve the scores to 75%.
"There is really something wanting about the quality," Recto told Luistro. “It may have something to do with our teachers, or the facilities and our textbooks.”