Shortfall in SHS aid program budget affects beneficiaries
By Jerome Carlo Paunan
MANILA, (PIA) — Senator Win Gatchalian is seeking to fill the shortfall in the Senior High School Voucher Program (SHS-VP) to prevent the mounting of government debt to private schools. SHS VP is a financial assistance program in the form of vouchers that subsidizes qualified SHS learners from participating in private or non-DepEd public senior high schools.
“The voucher program is a good mechanism to revive ailing private schools because a lot of the private schools have been devastated by the pandemic. A shortfall in the SHS financial assistance program will also mean a lesser number of beneficiaries can avail of the program,” said Gatchalian.
The chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture noted that while DepEd has proposed a P25 billion budget for the SHS-VP in 2022, the National Expenditure Program (NEP) has only allotted P16.5 billion, leaving a shortfall of almost P9 billion. Under the Senate committee report on the proposed 2022 national budget, P5 billion in unprogrammed appropriations was added to the P16.5 billion budget for SHS-VP.
The SHS-VP was allotted P25.2 billion in the 2021 national budget, P11.5 billion of which were under unprogrammed appropriations. Out of the P11.5 billion under unprogrammed appropriations, P3.7 billion was funded to date.
Gatchalian flagged that if the budget of the SHS-VP budget would remain insufficient, the DepEd’s debt to private schools will continue to increase. The government currently owes P35 billion to private schools under the SHS-VP.
“I am just concerned with the Senior High School Voucher Program next year because if we cannot fund the P9 billion and the amount being approved under the unprogrammed funds, the debtor what we owe to the private schools will always increase every year and this will never end,” said Gatchalian.
“If we continue to have a shortfall, this will increase over time and we will never be able to catch up at one point,” he added.
To address the shortfall in the SHS-VP’s funding requirements, Gatchalian proposed to realign part of the P15 billion allotted to Flexible Learning Options (FLOs), the bulk of which will go mainly towards the printing of self-learning modules (SLMs). Gatchalian explained that he is eyeing less dependence on self-learning modules in anticipation of the resumption of face-to-face classes. (OSWG/PIA-NCR)