NO FEES SHOULD BE collected from public school students at enrolment or any time during the school year, says Department of Education (DepEd) Order No. 19.
In keeping with this order and in response to a complaint Inquirer received from a parent, DepEd has directed Mambugan Elementary School in Antipolo City to stop all fee collections. Mambugan principal Carmelita de Jesus was also ordered to return monies the school had collected from its students.
For the school year just ended, teachers required parents to pay P50 for each child to cover purportedly the salaries of two security guards, at P6,000 each monthly.
Mambugan?s principal said the ?security fee? was the idea of the school?s General Parents Teachers Association, a claim confirmed by GPTA president Ronald Baral and secretary Demetrio Bautista.
The group?s 3,600-plus members had ?agreed to make the contributions,? which they also claimed were ?voluntary on the part of the parents.?
However, it was reported that some teachers refused to release students? report cards until parents had paid the P50 security fee per child, which refusal was tantamount to making the fee compulsory.
De Jesus also denied allegations an additional P30 was collected from each pupil at the beginning of the school year supposedly for the use of electric fans.
Education Secretary Jesli Lapus asserted that reported violations of Order No. 19 ?will not be tolerated and will be sanctioned if true.?
According to Lapus, DepEd Southern Tagalog director Paraluman Giron had called a meeting with her division superintendents, including Aurea Sto. Domingo of Antipolo City, about the issue.
?Regional directors of the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Mimaropa (Mindoro Oriental, Mindoro Occidental, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) have also been alerted. They will feedback their findings as soon as possible,? said Lapus.
Order No. 19, issued by Lapus on March 19, 2008, is ?pursuant to the Constitutional mandate for the provision of free public education at the elementary and secondary levels and the country?s targets in the Education for All (EFA) Plan 2015 and the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs.?
However, DepEd insiders said an undisclosed number of public schools nationwide had defied the DepEd order allegedly due to the very limited allocation for Maintenance, Operating and Other Expenses (MOOE).
They added such violations were an ?open secret? in the department and called the Mambugan case an ?old story.?
The Mambugan principal explained they could not afford to hire guards for the school with their P63,911 monthly MOOE. Also, the school has other priorities, such as supplemental feeding program, purchase of instructional materials, repair of facilities and equipment, payment of water services, etc.
Like Lapus, Undersecretary Vilma Labrador asserted Order No. 19 ?stays? and it covered even ?authorized but voluntary contributions,? such as those for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Red Cross, Anti-TB Fund and Parents, Teachers and Community Associations.
Labrador said parents should not be burdened with the ?financial insufficiencies? school heads faced in their day-to-day operations. ?Let the DepEd leadership do the resourcing,? she said as she also expressed hope soon ?every school will receive its own fund as part of our School-based Management Scheme, which aims to empower our principals.?
The militant Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), however, believes both the Department of Budget and Management and DepEd are to blame for the school heads? woes. ACT national chair Antonio Tinio said public school heads were ?victims because without collections, they face a dire lack of MOOE and with collections, they face administrative charges.?
He added, ?If government is really serious about eliminating all fees and making public education truly free, then it should allot adequate funds for maintenance and operations.?
This year, the DepEd budget is P174.46 billion, nearly 80 percent of which?P137.86 billion?goes to personnel services, or salaries and allowances of the teaching and non-teaching staff. Only P22.67 billion and P13.83 billion have been set aside for MOOE and capital outlay, respectively.
Given such limited resources, some schools have been rather creative in sourcing funds. Baral said the parents? monetary contributions towards security fees were the GPTA?s ?way of helping the DepEd do its job.?
Nothing is wrong with that, of course, but both the school and the association should make certain that payments are voluntary. If parents cannot afford to pay, there should be no consequences such as the withholding of report cards.