Education Commissioner Glenn Muña said the $23.86 million that the CNMI government has so far transmitted to the Public School System for fiscal year 2019 is the barest minimum and underfunds the Commonwealth’s education sector.
Under the budget law, Public Law 20-67, PSS was supposed to get a total of $42.86 million in fiscal year 2019, but this amount was severely slashed as a result of the government’s austerity measures in the wake of the economic downturn following Super Typhoon Yutu’s destruction last October.
In his presentation to the Board of Education’s Fiscal, Personnel, and Administration Committee at its meeting last week, Muña said that $7.5 million has already been cut from the fiscal year 2019 budget of PSS due to the ongoing austerity measures; that means PSS will be receiving a total of $35.36 million for its operations this fiscal year. With PSS already getting $23.86 million from the CNMI government so far, Muña said that leaves PSS still waiting for $11.5 million from the central government.
He said PSS wants to avoid going into deficit. In order to avoid that, he said that PSS needs to make sure that the rest of the $11.5 million due is transferred.
“It’s very difficult to operate the schools with only $23 million,” he said.
Muña was joined by other PSS officials at the meeting.
In a later interview, he said that PSS needs to be mindful of upcoming expenses such as transportation costs, overtime for certain employees as five school are slated to be running double sessions, and other expenses. PSS was able to decrease certain costs, with the summer downtime after schools were completed.
Muña said that they have been in contact with the Department of Finance about the appropriations and understand the current financial situation that they are going through.