The Public School System will prioritize the hiring of more teachers once the new budget bill that increases allocation for PSS is enacted into law, according to Board of Education member Herman T. Guerrero.
Guerrero thanked the Senate's passage of a revised government budget bill that allocates $33 million for PSS in fiscal year 2013. This bill is now with the House, which earlier recommended only $29.5 million for public schools.
Guerrero said the $33 million would satisfy the maintenance-of-effort requirement of the U.S. Department of Education for 2013. The MOE is determined based on the projected overall revenue of the government for a given fiscal year.
At present, PSS needs 87 more teachers to replace those who left the system last year.
Based on records, there are only a little over 400 teachers for the new school year. Due to the shortage, overcrowding in classrooms is expected when schools open this week.
“If our lawmakers are serious in their promise about providing quality education for our schoolchildren, this is the time to show it. The new school year is a little bit more challenging for PSS and we're counting on their commitment,” Guerrero told Saipan Tribune.
Guerrero pointed out that filling classrooms with enough number of teachers now depends on how fast the new bill becomes law. “At this point in time, I understand that the commissioner [Dr. Rita A. Sablan] has yet to decide about hiring personnel without a clear budget direction from the Legislature,” he added.
With bigger class sizes expected this week, online courses for high school students are being touted as the only way to ease congested classrooms in public schools. As of last week, a total of 813 high school students on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota have registered for various online programs.
As of Aug. 18 this year, PSS was projecting a $7-million deficit by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, according to PSS acting finance director George Palican. For the “all others” account, Palican said the projected shortfall is $4.5 million because of the increasing cost of utilities.
PSS runs 19 schools and 10 Head Start centers and expects more than 11,000 enrollees this school year.