Despite last week’s CNMI Supreme Court opinion of a guaranteed 25% allotment for the Public School System, Rep. Roman Benavente (R-Saipan) says this is no blank check and wants PSS to be cautious with its expenses.
Benavente, who chairs the House Committee on Education, said he supports PSS and is happy that its leaders asserted themselves in insisting that PSS should get 25% of the general revenues of the Commonwealth.
In terms of salaries, though, PSS should be cautious with regards to spending, he added.
“I’d like to…caution PSS with regards to expenditures and even the salaries of employees,” he said. “I have nothing against raising salaries for employees but make it…where it’s within the scope of the law, and not…supersede the authority of the law.”
He pointed out that there were issues in the past relating to salary increases, triggering emotions that led to complaints. “I feel [that PSS should be]more mindful as far as expenditures [are concerned] and how they manage their funding,” he added.
Benavente is also very conservative as to what 25% could do for public schools. “It is very hard to tell right now. Because right now, the situation is where we’re challenged, with the broken schools and everything.”
Benavente said that renovations cost a lot of money. On top of that, PSS would still have to get all the inventories that have to be in place to accommodate the students.
According to the high court opinion, PSS “shall be guaranteed an annual budget of not less than [25%] of the general revenues of the Commonwealth through an annual appropriation.”
With PSS’ priority set on the restoration of schools, particularly toward ensuring that schools, when they open, are safe and environment-friendly, Benavente assures that the Legislature will always support the CNMI youth.
“All in all, collectively, I’m happy with the decision of the court,” Benavente said. “I’m looking forward to working together as a community—the school community and us in the Legislature. We will always be supportive of our future generation. It is everybody’s responsibility. …All of us parents are, more or less, responsible for their well-being, setting the future.”
Last week, legislators pre-filed a bipartisan bill, with support from both the majority and the minority, that would require and set a schedule in the law for when the Department of Finance would transfer funds to PSS.