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Special education fund must be used for safe school opening –Gatchalian

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian proposed on Sunday a more flexible use of the Special Education Fund (SEF) to help schools prepare for a safe reopening for the coming school year.

In a statement, Gatchalian (chairman of the Senate committee on basic education),  pointed out that giving local school boards more leeway on the use of the SEF will provide much-needed additional resources to protect learners, teachers, and school personnel from the COVID-19 threat.

He said that under Section 4 of the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act, the President can authorize the expanded use of SEF as part of his power to adopt temporary emergency measures.

While the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is yet to issue guidelines on how the SEF may be used for schools’ COVID-19 response, he proposed that these funds be used as additional funding for localized testing of teachers, learners, and personnel.

According to the senator, the Department of Education(DepEd) is still in the process of realigning its own budget to respond to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For instance, he said, the DepEd needs to invest on information and  communications technology devices in the absence of face-to-face interaction.

Further, he said that the SEF can be used to buy disinfection materials and other public heath supplies such as soap, alcohol, thermometers, and sanitizers; and for COVID-19 awareness and response programs.

The SEF consists of the shares of provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays in the proceeds of the additional one percent tax on real property.

Section 272 of the Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7160) allows the use of the SEF for the operation and maintenance of public schools, construction and repair of school buildings, facilities and equipment, educational research, purchase of books and periodicals, and sports development among others. —LBG, GMA News