Contractualization of teachers opposed

ACT Teachers Party-List Representative Antonio Tinio today called on the Aquino administration to rethink its plan to employ teachers on a contractual basis when it implements universal kindergarten education in the coming school year.

The Department of Education has announced that it has begun preparations for accepting approximately 2.5 million 5-year old children into a universal kindergarten program in school year 2011-2012.

The House of Representatives is set to pass House Bill 3555, “An Act Institutionalizing the Kindergarten Education into the Basic Education System and Appropriating Funds Therefor,” principally authored by Davao Oriental 2nd District Rep. Thelma Almario. The bill will provide the legal basis for universal kindergarten education in the country. It shall make kindergarten education mandatory and compulsory for children 5 years old and above and a prerequisite for Grade 1, and shall be provided free from tuition and other fees. The bill will be certified as urgent by Malacañang to ensure its swift passage into law.

“We welcome this administration’s move to implement universal kindergarten education. It’s a necessary step that will help in reducing the huge number of dropouts in the early elementary grades. However, Malacañang must respect the rights and welfare of kindergarten teachers in implementing the program,” said Tinio.

Tinio explained that during the deliberations on HB 3555 in the Committee on Basic Education and Culture and the Committee on Appropriations, it was revealed that the DepEd intends to employ approximately 30,000 kindergarten teachers on a contractual basis to serve the 2.5 million students targeted for next school year. Each teacher will handle one three-hour session of 45 students in the morning and another in the afternoon and will receive an honorarium of Php 6,000 per month.

Tinio added that his proposal to the Committee on Appropriations to include a provision guaranteeing the regular employment of kindergarten teachers with compensation in accordance with the Salary Standardization Law was not accepted. “The proponents explained that the DepEd’s 2011 budget could not accommodate regular employment and salaries for kindergarten teachers.” The salary for a regular teacher stands at Php 15,649 per month.

“Deped’s plan to employ teachers on a contractual basis on such a massive scale will violate the rights of teachers to just compensation and job security,” said Tinio. “The monthly honorarium of Php 6,000 is way below the minimum wage, even though the kindergarten teachers are expected to provide 6 hours of actual teaching per day just like regular teachers. Furthermore, Deped will have the dubious distinction of becoming the country’s single biggest employer of contractuals. If their plan pushes through, this will seriously undermine the status of the teaching profession.”

Tinio added that the DepEd’s plan would violate provisions of Republic Act 4670, the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers. “How can we expect quality kindergarten education if the teachers will be subjected to substandard pay and exploitative working conditions?”

The ACT Teachers representative called on the Aquino administration and its allies in Congress to provide the funds so that kindergarten teachers may be employed on a regular basis and with standardized salaries. “New legislation can be passed to realign funds from the numerous lumpsums of the 2011 budget, such as the controversial allocations for Conditional Cash Transfers or the Public-Private Partnership funds.” Tinio.

“Pres. Aquino has touted universal kindergarten as one of the key educational reforms of his administration. If so, then this administration must do things right, starting with adequate funding that will secure the rights of teachers and provide the conditions for quality education,” concluded Tinio. D’Jay Lazaro

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