If the $33 million proposed budget for the Public School System is approved, among the priority areas that Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan, Ed.D., wants to work on is the hiring of more teachers and the long-awaited salary increase for some of the system’s support staff.
She disclosed that PSS has some employees who are paid just $11,000 per year—an amount she described as very difficult to live on in the face of the increasing cost of living on island.
Sablan said the salary adjustment is only for some support staff employees and not for classroom teachers and other positions whose wages are based on the board-approved compensation policy.
“We have some staff that are still at the low end of the salary scale, receiving $11,000 a year and that is very, very difficult [to live on],” she told Saipan Tribune last week.
According to Sablan, the board suspended the compensation policy that was supposed to increase the wages of staffers in previous years due to budget constraints.
“I am thankful that both the House and Senate did entertain the proposed salary for our staff. So we’re hopeful,” she said.
The Budget Act for fiscal year 2014 has yet to be finalized. Under the Senate version that was rejected by the House of Representatives, PSS would get $33 million this new fiscal year.
If this happens, Sablan said PSS may also see additional teachers. PSS lost about a hundred teachers and counselors in previous years as a result of budget cuts. PSS is asking the Legislature to restore all these positions by providing the system $40 million, as what the board earlier recommended. Under the $33 million proposal, however, PSS will be able to restore some of the positions it lost.
Meantime, Board of Education chair Herman T. Guerrero, during last week’s meeting, expressed dismay over the delayed passage of the new budget. He said the operation of schools in the coming weeks rely on the new funding for public schools. Fiscal year 2013 ends on Sept. 30.
He urged the Legislature to empathize with students who will be in big and overcrowded classes due to the shortage of teachers. Besides this, he cited the continuing sacrifice of public school students this school year due to the four-hour-only use of air-conditioning units in classrooms.