The Public School System was appropriated $12 million yesterday when Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed into law the $24-million supplemental budget from the Special Casino Gross Revenue Tax Account.
Under the appropriation for PSS, $150,000 will go to the Board of Education and $11.85 million will go to various PSS projects: $1.3 million for school facilities repairs and upgrades, $2.5 million for instructional materials, and $1 million for school buses.
Board of Education chair Marylou Ada said “it was a long and tedious process but we finally made it. We are now going to get on with our projects. Everything now is in place and we don’t have to worry about funding which is the fruit of everything.”
“This did not only make the Board of Education happy but also the 10,000 PSS students and 1,500 PSS employees,” she added.
Last December, the House of Representatives Ways & Means Committee set aside $15 million from the supplemental budget for PSS, in compliance with the constitutional mandate that 25 percent of general funds must go to PSS.
In an earlier interview, committee chair Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan) said the $15 million was at the request of the BOE, but the Department of Finance already initially released $12 million to meet the immediate needs of PSS.
“When they [BOE] submitted their listing, there was a total of $15 million but they came forward stating that their immediate need and highest priority amounted to $12 million. So we reached that understanding and I informed them because this is the first [business gross revenue tax] for fiscal year 2017,” he said.
“We are expecting more collection and supplemental revenues throughout the fiscal year and so we would deliver their remaining $3 million in the next round. Our highest priority is to meet the list that BOE provided the committee,” he added.
Ada cited the enormous responsibility that PSS encounters every day.
“Every morning, 10,000 kids roll out of their beds to go to school, 1,500 PSS employees get out of their beds at 3am so they can get to class at 6am to prepare the schools for their students when they come. With that, we have an enormous responsibility and I know Rep. Angel Demapan and the Senate members get tired because whenever I start my speech at hearings, I always say, ‘on behalf of 10,000 kids 1,500 employees we implore you to pass House Bill 20-147,’” she said.
“So I am like the big elephant in the room, reminding them of the numbers, but seriously, there is an overflowing joy when you see the children smile when they get down from the school bus and run to the school campus. They are very happy and their parents are also pleased with the education that they are getting from PSS,” she added.
Ada said the funding will help PSS carry out plans that are already in the pipeline.
“We are going to Guam for the Chamorro and the music competition and I know we are going to come home with a lot of awards…we are also going to Washington, D.C. for the Real World Design Competition that we have won four times and we have students that are going to California to compete at the national level of the spelling bee contest,” she said.
“These will give you an image of all the success that we have achieved at PSS and we want to tell everyone how the money is spent,” she added.