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No SPED budget for 2023 but DepEd vows to make 'internal adjustments'

No budget was allocated for special education (SPED) in 2023 after the Department of Education (DepEd) failed to provide sufficient documentation for its request, according to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Monday.

The DBM said that while it puts “primacy” on the value of SPED, the DepEd failed to provide supporting documentation for the proposed retention of the budget.

This, according to DBM, includes the details of the proposed amount with specific purposes, the basis of computations, and the status of the ongoing conversion and establishment of Inclusive Learning Resource Centers (ILRCs).

“While the Department of Education proposed the retention of the line item for the purpose under the FY 2023 National Expenditure Program (NEP), no sufficient documentation was provided to support the same,” the DBM said in an emailed statement.

The DBM also cited the obligation rate of the SPED program, which was only 1.13% as of June 30, 2022, equivalent to only P6.35 million out of P560.202 million.

According to the DBM, there is a P1.216-billion surplus from the operations of elementary and junior high schools under the DepEd’s maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE).

“[W]e deemed that the program support or additional allocation for the smooth implementation of the SPED may already be accommodated within the same program, and that a separate budget for the purpose may no longer be necessary,” the DBM said.

“Further, please note that during budget execution, items may be realigned and modified by the implementing agency to accommodate the requirements of any program that is in dire need of additional resources,” it added.

'Internal adjustments'

The DepEd earlier on Monday said it proposed a P532-million budget for SPED for 2023 but was not considered in the NEP.

To address this issue, DepEd spokesperson Atty. Michael Poa said “internal adjustments” will be made within the agency to fund SPED.

He made the clarification when asked if thousands of learners with special needs will be affected with the non-inclusion of SPED in the proposed 2023 budget.

“This means that in order to support the program, internal adjustments are made — be it in the available MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) of schools or other programs, in order to fund SPED,” he said.

Poa said based on DepEd’s finance strand for fiscal year 2021, there was no budget allocated for SPED under NEP. However, it was eventually funded under the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA) amounting to P329 million.

For 2022, he said the SPED budget was funded under NEP at P297 million and was later on increased to P560 million under this year’s GAA.

In a separate statement, DepEd stressed that they will work with the Congress to look for other ways to fund SPED.

“This is a recurring circumstance every year, and DepEd is not at a loss because we always work with members of Congress to find other ways to fund DepEd programs,” the agency said.

“In the past years, DepEd has likewise made efforts within the organization to ensure that programs are supported,” it added.

DepEd said the statement was released amid “malicious and misleading” reports which allegedly indicated that the agency “deliberately excluding” funding for the SPED program.  —Jon Viktor D. Cabuenas and Giselle Ombay/KBK, GMA News