Tomorrow is Election Day. As people will elect their 12 bets for the Senate, they will also be electing their ‘new’ set of local government officials. Surely, many have heard several promises from the local candidates. For some local government units (LGUs), coalitions were formed based on performance, i.e. the old-but-performing politicos, or their nature as alternatives, i.e. the new-and-untainted candidates.
In the course of the campaign, I personally have seen and heard local candidates sharing their accomplishments, if incumbent, or promises, if a newcomer, in terms of education. Truly, education has been one of the most attractive keyword for both politicians and voters. For politicians, this would mean larger votes considering that parents, students of voting age, teachers, and other school personnel, and even the alumni are possible sources of votes. For the voters, this means benefits like scholarships, free school supplies, and higher bonus for employees, among others.
But have we asked: What can local governments do in terms of education-service delivery? This essay will try to provide some answers to this question. I will first introduce the local government, followed by some information about the local school board and special education fund, and end with some general observations based on cases and experiences of local governments.
The Local Government
According to the Local Government Code of 1991, each municipality shall have a mayor, a vice-mayor, and a set of councilors. The mayor is the local chief executive, while the vice-mayor serves as the presiding officer of the sangguniang bayan (SB). Sections 444 and 445 of the LGC of 1991 provide the powers and functions of the mayor and vice-mayor, respectively.
The councilors comprise the SB, which is the local legislative body. Other members of the sanggunians are the president of the Liga ng mga Barangay, the President of the Pederasyon ng mga Sangguniang Kabataan, and sectoral representatives. The three sectoral representatives will come from the women, the agricultural or industrial workers, and other sectors such as the urban poor, disabled, and indigenous peoples. However, the manner of elections of the sectoral representatives remains to be enacted by Congress. The powers of the SB are provided in Section 447 of the LGC of 1991.
Aside from the above offices created under the LGC of 1991, there are also three special bodies, with multi-sectoral composition, created under the Code. These are the Local Development Council, the Local Health Board, and the one relevant for this essay, the Local School Board.
The Local School Board
At the municipal level, the local school board (LSB) is composed of:
- The municipal mayor, and
- The district supervisor of schools as co-chairmen;
- The chairman of the education committee of the sangguniang bayan,
- The municipal treasurer,
- The representative of the pederasyon ng mga sangguniang kabataan in the sangguniang bayan,
- The duly elected president of the municipal federation of parents-teachers associations,
- The duly elected representative of the teachers’ organizations in the municipality, and
- The duly elected representative of the non-academic personnel of public schools in the city
In some cases, other officials of the local government and education bureaucracy like the municipal engineer, municipal planning officer, and representative of secondary schools are added in the membership of the LSB to broaden the participation and make decision-making more informed.
The primary function of the LSB rests on what is called the special education fund (SEF). The SEF accrues from the additional one per cent (1%) on real property tax (RPT) levied by municipal government. This means that for every 100 pesos paid for RPT, an additional peso is collected for SEF. This one peso is then divided equally between the municipal and the provincial governments. Fifty centavos remains with the collecting LGU, and the other 50 centavos goes to the provincial school board (PSB) for its use.
One problem here is that if the land area of a municipality is small, the RPT is also small, and the SEF is even smaller. Here is where the PSB will come into the picture. The PSB, which receives 50 per cent of the total SEF collections from all municipalities under it, should distribute the projects to the less-abled municipalities.
Special Education Fund and its Use
Generally, the SEF can only be used for five purposes, namely:
- Operation and maintenance of public schools, including organization of extension, non-formal, remedial and summer classes, as well as payment of existing allowances of teachers granted by local government units chargeable to SEF as of 31 December 1997;
- Construction and repair of school buildings, facilities and equipment, including acquisition, titling and improvement of school sites;
- Educational research;
- Acquisition/procurement of books, instructional materials, periodicals and equipment including information technology resources; and
- Expenses for school sports activities at the national, regional, division, district, municipal and barangay levels as well as for other Department of Education (DepEd) related activities, including co-curricular activities.
The only devolved education-related function on LGUs is the construction and maintenance of classrooms and school buildings. Curriculum, teacher hiring, and many others remain under the control of the DepEd. This is why in most SEF allocations made by LSBs, there is a large emphasis on items number 1 and 2 above.
Aside from classroom and school building construction and maintenance, LGUs have also hired additional teachers. They are usually paid lower than what the DepEd teachers get. Nevertheless, there are teachers who will teach our students.
As seen above, only two elected officials come in the LSB: the municipal mayor and the sangguniang bayan education committee chair. Of the two, the mayor has actual and real powers over the LSB, and also the SEF appropriations. In this sense, the mayor as the local chief executive of LGU and the presiding officer of the LSB can also be seen as the controlling officer.
The LGC of 1991 might be silent (but not so much) about the specific powers a mayor can have in terms of education service-delivery at the local level. But in reality, as demonstrated by the cases and experiences of various municipalities, the mayor, acting as the captain, can bring the SEF and LSB to a particular direction, be it good or bad.
In some cases, a powerful local chief executive can impose himself or herself on the LSB. There are cases of LGUs building classrooms, distributing school supplies, textbooks, and even uniforms (some with the mayor’s name or color plastered). Other mayors, those who are less into education, may just let other officials do the work for him/her. There are cases of non-performing LSBs, misused SEFs.
It is hoped that this brief essay would help voters in electing their local government officials, particularly their municipal mayors. May this also make everyone aware on how the LSBs functions, and how SEFs are used. As a requirement for the Philippine Transparency Seal and the DILG’s Seal of Good Housekeeping, public display of information related to SEF should be available in your municipal halls. Make it a habit of checking this out for people to know and find out how the funds are used, and whether your LSBs are working.