DepEd Supports the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion: It is Pro-Poor and Pro-Development

July 5, 2017

The Department of Education (DepEd) fully supports the government’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN). The intended main beneficiaries of the expected net revenue gains from the comprehensive tax reform – infrastructure, education, health, and social protection – are critical sectors in facilitating sustained growth and development that is inclusive.
 
The high priority given to education is not just a matter of policy; it is also a matter of law. The Constitution mandates the state to protect and promote the right of every citizen to quality education that is accessible to all. DepEd is the agency tasked with fulfilling the State’s obligation to establish and maintain a system of free public education in the elementary and high school levels. As a rule, the Constitution directs the State to assign the highest budgetary priority to education.
 
What are the cost drivers for the education sector that we need to meet in the coming years?
 
The first cost driver is the sheer size of the population that we serve for basic education. For the just concluded school year 2016-2017, there were 24.9 million learners from Kindergarten to Senior High School. Of this, 21.5 million was accounted for by the public school system through its 53,043 schools all over the country, taught by 742,670 public school teachers. The total number of learners is expected to grow to about 28 million by 2022. Outside of the learners that we cater to through formal basic education, the present administration is determined to reach out to the out of school youth and to adults who have not finished basic education, through the expansion and intensification of the Alternative Learning System or ALS.
 
The second cost driver is our commitment to upgrade the quality of education. Upgrading education quality requires improving our instruction ratios, such as classrooms to students and teachers to students, to reach ideal levels. We are also committed to provide adequate facilities, including water and sanitation, internet access, computers, laboratories, and libraries, among others. The improvement in the capability of our teachers through in-service training and professional development also requires increasing budget allocation.
 
The third cost driver is K to 12, which aims to graduate students ready for the world of work or higher education. Not only did making Kindergarten compulsory and adding two years of Senior High School require bigger expenditures; the tech-voc track which in the last school year accounted for almost 39% of the 1.4 million enrollees needs higher investments in tools, equipment, and training materials.
 
Fourthly, climate change and disasters are proving to be a new set of cost drivers. We are visited by more calamities with greater strength every year, jacking up the costs for rehabilitation and reconstruction, as well as for building school infrastructure with improved resiliency.
 
Fifthly, for 2017 the Marawi siege has exacted a horrendous toll on public resources including education. As of June 30, 2017, 16,472 Marawi children have evacuated to all regions of the country. They need not only temporary learning spaces, but also furniture, fixtures, books and laboratory equipment, as well as backpacks.  It will cost us PhP 800 million to rebuild at least 15 schools in Marawi, which were bombed, burned, and looted.  Rebuilding all the 132 schools in Marawi will cost PhP 2.3 billion.
 
Thus, we must approach the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion as a package.
 
On the revenue side, the government will meet the additional expenditure requirements not by simply identifying new taxes, but by taking the opportunity to institute a comprehensive reform that will address revenue, equity, efficiency, and over-complexity of the tax system at the same time.
 
On the expenditure side, the package has put not just infrastructure but also people at the center of the package, committing to finance the investment requirements of education over the medium term.
 
Taken together, the reform program is clearly pro-poor and pro-development.
 
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