Pay hike no cure-all, teachers told
Freeing the country’s teachers from the debt trap doesn’t rely solely on increasing their salaries, according to Education Secretary Leonor Briones.
In a recent interview with reporters, Briones said while she didn’t oppose raising teachers’ salaries again, they should first be armed with financial literacy.
“All of you feel underpaid,” said Briones, addressing herself to teachers. “Even if I have an increase in salary, I will still feel that I’m underpaid.”
“That’s because your needs and wants will always exceed your resources. Having increased income is part of the solution but it will not totally [address the problem] because you only increase the capacity to borrow,” Briones said.
Depending on their level, teachers earn monthly salaries ranging from P19,000 to P43,000.
But many teachers still resort to loans sometimes with usurious interest rates, giving rise to what Briones said was a “decades-old drama.”
This was the reason she said the Department of Education (DepEd) was currently offering financial literacy seminars for teachers in partnership with government financial institutions, like the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
Briones said teachers should not feel insulted in attending such programs that were designed to protect them from overspending or living beyond their means.
She said the DepEd didn’t want what happened to 26,000 retiring teachers last year to be repeated. The teachers’ retirement pay went entirely to debt repayment. Others were sued by private lending institutions for estafa.
She expressed lament that the DepEd was being blamed for the teachers’ plight.
Getting all the blame
“DepEd is getting all the blame, but who benefited, who borrowed?” Briones said. “DepEd does not benefit a single centavo from all these activities. We are just asked to deduct [the teachers’] debts from their salaries.”
As the DepEd tried to settle at least P123 billion in debts owed by teachers to the GSIS, many teachers last month complained of getting a take-home pay of as low as P300, way below the ceiling for a take-home pay of at least P4,000 a month.
Briones said DepEd had since tried to correct this through Department Order No. 55.
The order required that the take-home pay ceiling was complied with and advised teachers, mostly from Metro Manila and provinces nearby, “to pay their loans directly to their respective lenders” if the loan payments were not automatically deducted from their salaries.
Briones also reminded teachers not to dip into their pockets to buy classroom supplies because funds for these were provided for in their schools’ maintenance and other operating expenses.
Teachers, Briones said, should report to the DepEd if they were forced to spend their own money on classroom supplies.
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