Educators forum urges gov’t for higher education budget, not private-public schemes

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Photo Courtesy: Arkibong Bayan (File Photo)
Photo Courtesy: Arkibong Bayan

By Joey Natividad
Special Correspondent

NAGA CITY (BicolToday.com/12-June-12) – A group of progressive teachers on Wednesday, June 6, reacted to government’s target of building new classrooms through the Private-Public Partnership (PPP) program, and instead called for the government to increase the education budget to address the school backlogs.
It strongly reminded the government not to treat education as a “commodity”, but as a vital social service.

The PPP Center, which the Aquino administration set up to facilitate so-called partnerships with the private sector, recently listed the construction of classroom clusters in its revised priority list. The Department of Education (DepEd) also announced that it targets to have 9,332 new classrooms built by 2013 under the PPP.

These were cited by the Educators’ Forum for Development (EfD), a voluntary association of progressive teachers. EfD urged the government to weigh the long-term benefits of the public from PPPs in education.

The PPP for School Infrastructure program of the DepEd, in coordination with the PPP Center and the Department of Finance, will assume classroom construction under the build-lease-transfer (BLT) arrangement, where DepEd will pay the private proponent through financial lease up to 10 years, which was cited by the educators’ forum, EfD.

On the side, the Department of Budget Management will issue a Multi-Year Obligation Authority (MYOA) which will cover for deferred government payments to the private proponent, also cited by EfD, in its emailed statement to BicolToday.com

EfD believes that government should review priorities and re-channel resources directly to the delivery of basic social services to the people.

“Citing IBON data, it added that pouring the people’s money into an unevaluated practice has been proven unsuccessful in other countries, with the cost of entering into PPPs outweighing public benefits. In the United Kingdom (UK), for instance, the cost of capital of PPPs exceeded 8%, which was more than double the cost if government implemented the project by itself. The school buildings, which turned out to be poorly designed by the private firms, cost the UK government more to maintain through the years,” EfD said in the statement, referring to other countries’ experience in private-public partnerships.

EfD also expressed alarm that the DepEd paper on PPP for School Infrastructure brazenly stated that “through the PPP framework, a social need is transformed into a business opportunity of sufficient ‘economic scale’ that would encourage value engineering”.

The educators group called the statement “insensitive” in explicitly surrendering the task of ensuring this social service to business interests, amid the growing number of children who drop out of school every year due to the rising costs.

The educators reminded the government of the country’s experience with privatization of key industries, which has led to higher costs and increasing debt burden for the public. EfD reiterated its call to the government not to treat education as a commodity but as a vital social service. [BicolToday.com]

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