School renovations and competitive salaries remain the priority of the Public School System in fiscal year 2019.
It was also learned during a budget hearing yesterday on Capital Hill that PSS expects about 900 students to graduate this season.
PSS is asking for a budget of $57 million for fiscal year 2019.
Acting Education commissioner Glenn Muña told the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan), that improved school facilities, continued investments in instructional materials and professional development, competitive salaries for teachers, and improved student health remain the priorities.
“I ask you to be our partner in education and continue to advocate and look after the best interest of our 10,000 students, and 1,000 [PSS] employees,” said Board of Education chair Marylou Ada in addressing the committee.
“…We need to recruit the best and brightest staff. To make every effort to retain our staff and every resource that they need to ensure that students…are ready to enroll in college and compete in a global workforce,” she said.
PSS was appropriated over $36 million for fiscal year 2018.
For fiscal year 2019, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres proposes $41.7 million for the education agency.
Demapan said in an interview that a big portion of the PSS budget goes toward personnel salaries.
“…They need more money for salary because of adjustments they made to raise the salaries of teachers,” said Demapan, adding that some of the PSS budget request goes to facility renovations and the purchase of instructional materials.
PSS also announced that starting next school year, they would be serving hot meals for breakfast and lunch. In response to a query from Demapan regarding students not eating school-provided meals, Ada said the hot meals have been adjusted to not only comply with federal nutritional requirements but to also use locally grown produce—even if it is seasonal.
“…It was a good hearing. The challenge now is to see how far we can go between the governor’s proposal and PSS’ request,” he said, adding that Torres’ proposal of $41.7 million was already in compliance with the CNMI Constitutional mandate entitling PSS to 25 percent of all revenues.
He noted that PSS’ request of $57 million is roughly 35 percent of the total budget available for appropriation, which is $164,039,225.