Education officials warned members of the House budget conference committee that chaos will reign in public schools if lawmakers continue to deny the Public School System the help it needs to sustain even the basic services for its students.
This was what Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan, Ph.D., and members of her leadership team told committee members during their closed-door meeting on Capital Hill Wednesday last week.
PSS officials, Sablan said, were again invited by the lawmakers to “justify one more time” why public schools should be given its $33-million request for next fiscal year.
“We're now talking about very large sizes, double sessions, cuts in instructional hours, energy conservation, and lack of staff. So the $33 million we're asking is merely for the basic services for our students, a bare-bones budget for PSS. And by not giving PSS the budget we need to ensure the normal delivery of these services, our kids are being penalized,” Sablan told Saipan Tribune.
She admits to being uncertain whether House lawmakers will approve PSS' request.
As of this week, Kagman and Tinian elementary schools are holding double sessions due to the lack of teachers. Most kindergarten classes are also in double session for the same reason. Multi-aged classes are also being enforced in several campuses.
If PSS will be given a lower budget in 2013, Sablan said this will only mean “more sufferings and sacrifices” in public schools. She hinted at the possibility of having double sessions in all levels.
“I hope they heard us because truly, PSS [like the hospital] is in lifeline too and we need help. The way I look at it [now], we're being put in a situation that really is not an indication of education being a priority. Please don't do this to our kids,” she urged.
PSS is short of 87 teachers and the hiring of additional staff would depend on the next fiscal year's budget.
According to Sablan, the current situation in public schools “overburden” the operations of buses because they need to do additional runs due to double sessions in many schools.
PSS, besides local appropriation, receives federal assistance. On average, the system receives $30 million every fiscal year from its regular federal grants. Sablan pointed out yesterday that these federal aids are strictly for certain requirements and purposes that cannot be used to supplant the local funding needs of public schools.