Despite the clear allocation of funds in the budget that was signed into law last Tuesday, a senior Board of Education official believes that the CNMI government should stick to the mandated 25-percent share of the Public School System.
At the Board of Education meeting last Wednesday, it was established that PSS asked for a budget of $54 million for fiscal year 2018. What it got was $36.4 million.
Now, Board of Education member Herman T. Guerrero wants to know what happened to the $15 million and is pressing for a supplemental budget that will give PSS what it wants.
“What is keeping the governor in identifying the funds the PSS is entitled to?” asked Guerrero.
The CNMI Constitution mandates that PSS is entitled to 25 percent of general fund revenues and 25 percent of casino generated gross revenue tax.
“The problem is, we don’t even know how much has been collected from the casino BGRT. There are no records or documents. I thought I read in the paper that the casino’s gross was $1 billion. If this is the case, how come those things are not being reported and how much BGRT out of that should be allocated to PSS?”
“Only the governor and [the Department of] Finance seem to be the ones that know the figures. If the governor is not sharing the figures to the Legislature then we can’t help but think that even the Legislature is speculating,” he added.
“They shouldn’t do that because that’s irresponsible…on the part of Legislature. They are supposed to be different branches of the government. If the Legislature doesn’t want to be independent of the Executive Branch, perhaps we should abolish the Legislature,” he said.
The board has already approved a plan to increase the salaries of teachers. What’s needed is funding.
“We cannot improve student learning if we have issues. It also means we have to satisfy the teachers and support staff. At the end of the day, it is students first. Money should follow students and teachers, that’s why we are adjusting the salary of teachers,” Guerrero said.
The board still plans to submit certified questions to the Supreme Court.
“We are certainly filing the certified questions. We still need to do that. Our counsel is still working, putting the language together and the brief that needs to be presented to the Supreme Court,” Guerrero said.
According to PSS legal counsel Tiberius Mocanu, identifying the certified questions was part of the board’s action at the last special board meeting.
“The questions were approved at the last board meeting and when it is complete, we will file,” he said.