Voters in November will be asked whether or not they agree to amend the NMI Constitution to ensure that the Public School System will receive 25 percent of the government’s annual budget—up from the current 15 percent funding. This, after the Senate passed last night House Legislative Initiative 18-12, barely a month before the deadline for placement on the November ballot.
Senators passed without amendment HLI 18-12 by a vote of 7-0 at 6:51pm.
The seven “yes” votes were from Sens. Jack Borja (Ind-Tinian), Frank Cruz (R-Tinian), Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota), Pete Reyes (Ind-Saipan), Jovita Taimanao (Ind-Rota), floor leader Ray Yumul (Ind-Saipan), and Senate President Ralph Torres (Ind-Saipan).
Two other senators had to leave the session earlier: Senate vice president Victor Hocog (R-Rota) had to return to the hospital, while Sen. Frank Borja (Ind-Tinian) had to catch a flight.
Education Commissioner Dr. Rita Sablan, when sought for comment last night, said she’s “hopeful” that voters would vote “yes” to the education initiative.
“I am confident that the people who would vote in November would vote ‘yes’ to the initiative because it is all about the children of the Commonwealth,” Sablan told Saipan Tribune.
HLI 18-12, authored by House Education Committee chair Roman Benavente (Ind-Saipan) and Rep. Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), seeks to amend Article 15, Section 1(e) of the CNMI Constitution to increase PSS’ guaranteed funding from 15 percent of the government’s annual appropriation to 25 percent.
The 15-percent guaranteed funding for PSS was established in 1985. Proponents of the initiative said the level of funding public education in other U.S. jurisdictions is closer to 25 percent of their annual budget.