For humanitarian purpose: Gatchalian wants DepEd’s fund for SPED restored
MANILA, Philippines — Invoking humanitarian purpose and the need to support learners with disabilities, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Friday appealed for the return of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) exclusive fund for its Special Education (SPED) program.
During the hearing of the Senate subcommittee on finance, Gatchalian, chair of the committee on basic education, lamented why the SPED fund was “totally slashed” in the agency’s proposed budget for 2021.
According to the senator, the necessities of SPED learners will be “commingled” with those of the general necessities of the department under the prevailing system of budgeting.
“Before there was a special fund for them but it will be commingled, meaning they have to compete with the requirements and necessities of other students,” Gatchalian pointed out.
“We all know that learners with disabilities really demand extra attention because of their situation, and that’s why I want to appeal to the body, to the Senate, to the chair, for humanitarian purpose and to support our learners with disabilities to reinstate the budget because kailangan talaga nila ng suporta (they really need support), and if it’s commingled it will be very difficult for them to fight for these funds,” he added.
Discussions led to this after Gatchalian asked DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones on what would happen to the around 439,000 SPED students as the agency suffered budget cuts by the Department of Budget and Management under the proposed National Expenditure Program (NEP) for next year.
He noted that the 2020 allocation of P300 million for the SPED program is no longer included in the 2021 NEP.
“Whether there is a budget or not, the SPED program is already integrated [into] the curriculum, and depending on the state of the learner, we have SPED learners who are totally integrated already in normal learning,” Briones said in response.
DepEd Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn Sevilla, meanwhile, pointed out that in terms of budget, there will be no problem with SPED because it is already included in the regular maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) of schools and since DepEd’s curriculum instruction has special program funds as well.
She explained that the P300 million fund for SPED this year was for the purchase of special facilities and equipment, but added that the fund was realigned for the Bayanihan 1 to augment resources for the government’s COVID-19 response.
“So [the] operation of the special education, it is inclusive, it is included in the MOOE but for special equipment and capital outlay, that’s the reason why we put that in this year’s budget is for the purchase and procurement of this special facility and equipment,” she added.
Gatchalian then asked DepEd officials of where the funds to buy equipment to support SPED learners will now be sourced.
“That means we will have to park the procurement for special needs. For special needs, like for example, the hearing aid and braille equipment, we also have the learning resources fund but the learning resources fund for this year and next year will have to compete with other requirements such as the self-learning materials which is much needed for this blended learning,” Sevilla said.
“We will adjust to how much will be given to us but of course if we will begin especially for the special education then we will implement as provided to us,” she added.