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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has appealed to Malacañang for the restoration of more than P8.4-billion budget cut to the Department of Education.

In a statement, Gatchalian warned that the multi-billion budget cut in the education sector would not only increase the number of dropouts and out of school youths since the realigned funds are supposedly to support “vulnerable learners.”

According to Gatchalian, about 60,000 learners will lose their scholarship grants and subsidies because of the P1.4-billion cut to the Senior High School Voucher Program (SHS-VP) which was part of the allocations rechanneled for the government’s various social amelioration and stimulus programs for those economically affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Nung nakita ko itong mga cuts, ang unang pumapasok sa isip ko yung mga marginalized dahil sila yung tatamaan dito kaagad at sila yung gusto nating matulungan,” said Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

Gatchalian explained that the SHS-VP gives financial assistance to disadvantaged but qualified learners to study in private schools, state and local universities and colleges (SUCs and LUCs), and technical and vocational institutions.

He noted that about about 80 percent of DepEd’s enrollment is in the marginalized sector “so if we want to reach out to them, huwag dapat i-cut ang mga programs na ito.”

The said program according to Gatchalian could have been a helpful measure to help learners continue their studies while helping struggling private schools.

Other sources of the realigned funds include the P500-million budget for the school-based feeding program and the P107-million allocation for the Special Education Program for learners with disabilities.

From the fiscal year 2019’s continuing appropriations, P102-million from the Computerization Program, which could have been utilized for DepEd’s Learning Continuity Plan (LCP), was also realigned to COVID-19 response, according to the senator.

“We’re cutting where it’s needed, and education is definitely one aspect that is an absolute necessity during these times because we’re dealing with the marginalized sector,” he said.

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