ANYONE who pays property taxes directly contributes to the quality of local public schools.
This year, thanks to their Special Education Funds (SEF), the Province of Cebu and the cities of Cebu and Mandaue will spend more than P325 million on maintenance and operations of public schools. Clearly, the National Government depends a lot on local communities, especially school boards, to make public schools better.
Another way that local communities helped was in turning up for Brigada Eskwela, when volunteers cleaned up and fixed classrooms, sorted out books and other supplies, and made sure public school pupils would find their learning spaces ready when the school season started. Months before that, private organizations like the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation were already working with local governments, like Cebu Province, to repair or rebuild schools ruined by the earthquake and typhoon Yolanda in late 2013.
All these commendable efforts deserve a good turn.
What’s missing is a way for communities to keep track of how well public funds are being invested in public schools. How about periodic reports, where divisions of the Department of Education (DepEd) can account for how many school buildings have been fixed or built, and how well pupils have fared in assessment tests?
Last week, for example, DepEd’s central office announced that Region 7 would get P138.65 million this year to fix 489 classrooms. The amount represents about 12.3 percent of the total P1.13 billion that Government will release to repair classrooms damaged by typhoons Yolanda and Glenda, as well as the siege in Zamboanga in 2013.
DepEd’s local leadership can take this transparency one step further, by revealing where these 489 classrooms in the region are and, better yet, updating the community on the progress made once the repairs are underway.
Scarcity recurs as the most common theme in the stories we hear about public schools when each new school year opens. That’s partly because local DepEd offices aren’t as aggressive as local governments in reporting what they’ve done for schools and what else needs doing.