“She reiterated her insensitive statement that teachers are well compensated and shall not receive local allowances and additional chalk/teaching supplies allowances.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Public school teachers lambasted Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones for her “anti-teacher statements and policies,” in a protest at the central office of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Pasig City on July 7.
Led by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), protesters were enraged at the DepEd’s decision to remove teachers’ allowances from local governments and possible erosion of other benefits, which reflect the agency’s claim that public school teachers are “neither underpaid nor underappreciated.”
The Secretary reiterated this in her letter to ACT dated June 20, which the latter said “proved that she has no heart for the teachers’ rights and welfare.”
“She reiterated her insensitive statement that teachers are well compensated and shall not receive local allowances and additional chalk/teaching supplies allowances,” said Benjamin Valbuena, ACT-Philippines chairperson.
Valbuena said based on the computation presented by Department of Education, entry level teachers enjoy an aggregated monthly compensation of P24,400 ($482). This amount includes basic pay, Personal Economic Relief Allowance and the subsidy for personnel benefit contributions such as Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), PAGIBIG, PhilHealth and Employees Compensation Insurance Premium.
But with government-mandated contributions and tax deductions, what is left of the teachers’ salaries is not enough to cover their family needs. Valbuena said at the maximum, a teacher’s take home pay is P16,000 ($316). This is far from the family living wage in the National Capital region which is P1,119 ($22) per day or P33,570 ($663) a month, as estimated by the independent research group Ibon Foundation.
“This situation will push teachers to borrow from government financial institutions, or even to unregistered loan sharks in order to cope with this living salary gap,” said Valbuena.
Bonuses are temporary, not included in pension
To counter ACT’s claims that teachers are underpaid, Briones included in the computation of teachers’ monthly salary the mid-year bonus, year-end bonus, clothing allowance, Productivity Enhancement Incentive and cash gifts to teachers’ annual pay and it divided into 12 months. Valbuena said, the computation showed that Teacher 1 receives P27,000 ($533) per month as entry level which is only P19,000 ($375).
Valbuena said that bonuses should not be computed as part of their salary as these are temporary and not included in the computation of their pension when they retire.
“While it is true that teachers receive mid-year bonus, year-end bonus, clothing allowance, Productivity Enhancement Incentive and cash gifts, it is the government’s responsibility to give such,” Valbuena said.
ACT also lambasted Briones’ defense of DepEd-Department of Budget and Management-Department of Interior and Local Government Joint Circular No. 1 series of 2017 that prohibits the use of Special Education Fund for teachers’ local allowance and for opposing teachers call for P5,000 ($98) chalk/teaching supplies allowance.
“Instead of protecting our rights and welfare, the Secretary of Education is the first to deny these to us, eventually contributing to the teachers’ poor economic situation and sacrifices under the rotting K to 12 education system. Given the secretary’s inutility, the teachers and education sector as a whole will eventually continue the intensifying call for just and decent pay and benefits,” Valbuena said.
Budget secretary opposes salary increases, additional chalk allowance for teachers in 2018
ACT has earlier criticized Briones for not taking the side of the teachers, and instead just going along with Cabinet officials who wish to even reduce what meager benefits they receive.
For this year, public school teachers got a raise in their “chalk allowance,” which was increased from P1,500 to P2,500 (from $20 to $30), as proposed by ACT Teachers Party-list. But there will be no more of that in 2018, if Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno will have his way. Diokno has said that he will stand pat against the proposed increase of the chalk allowance to P5,000 ($49) in the 2018 national budget.
“Chalk allowance” is used by teachers to buy, not just chalk, but other teaching supplies required in the classroom, which are not provided by government. ACT Teachers Party-list had successfully included proposals in the national budget every year, increasing the chalk allowance from P700 in 2011, to the current P2,500.
Meanwhile, there will also be no salary increase for teachers and government employees in next year’s proposed national budget, as Budget secretary Diokno also heads the Development Budget Coordination Committee which drafted the 2018 proposed budget. He had been vocal against the increase of teachers’ salary.
The teachers would never forget that for Diokno, increasing teachers’ salary is “too ambitious,” said ACT Teachers’ Partylist Rep. France Castro. This despite President Duterte’s declaration that teachers’ salary increase will be next after salary hike of the military and the police.
ACT Teachers Party Rep. Antonio Tinio said that with DepEd having the highest allocation in the P3.8 trillion ($75 billion) proposed budget for 2018, the “Duterte administration is more than capable of providing teachers and other rank-and-file personnel significant change in their salaries instead of the loose change that they receive with Executive Order 201 of the previous administration.”
“With today’s rising prices of basic goods and services, they need more than what we are giving them now,” Tinio added. The DBM is so quick and agressive in pushing for new taxes yet brands just demand for substantial salary increases as ‘too ambitious,’” said Tinio.
ACT Teachers party vowed to continue their support for teachers and other government workers struggle for salary increase.
“We call on all teachers and government workers to unite and fight for their right for sufficient salaries and benefits in the coming State of the Nation Address of President Duterte,” Castro said.