Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is recommending that $2 million from over $16.5 million in supplemental funding be appropriated to the Public School System to raise the salaries of teachers.
The recommendation, which came in a letter dated Nov. 29, 2017, indicated that a net of $16.5 million is available for appropriation after earmarks. In it, Torres recommends that $2 million be allocated to PSS.
The gross amount of over $38.5 million in revenue generated from the casino gross revenue tax was reduced due to Public Law 20-10, the law that sets aside $22 million from fiscal year 2017 CGRT to address obligations of the Commonwealth government to retiree compensations.
For fiscal year 2016, PSS received over $10 million in supplemental appropriations.
According to the enclosed summary that expounds on the recommendation, Torres indicated that the $2 million would be used to allow PSS to implement the new salary scale for its teachers, which sets it on par with the average salaries of teachers in North Dakota—the state with the lowest average salaries at $42,025 per annum, according to data from the National Educational Association.
“[The] proposal is to make funding available for the implementation of the new salary scale for teachers to make greater effort to reach more equitable ranges with the greater U.S.,” Torres wrote.
The CNMI Board of Education recently approved the increased salary scale and, according to Torres who cited the BOE, a teacher must first have a Standard Certification with Endorsement, a bachelor’s degree, Praxis I and II completion, and six to 10 years experience to reach the North Dakota salary range.
Citing constitutional concerns, members of PSS recommended that the House defer action on any appropriation bill to PSS because of a constitutional mandate that entitles PSS to 25 percent of “general funds.”
Confusion surrounding the term “general funds” arose, whether to use the term “gross general funds” or “net general funds” in calculating the PSS budget.
According to a BOE member, the certified question would be filed this week to finally clarify the matter.
The House Committee on Ways and Means chaired by Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan) is currently reviewing Torres’ recommendations for the appropriation of the supplemental funding.