Marianas Variety

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    Thursday, November 21, 2019-5:18:38A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Editorials 2019-September-20

Regarding PSS and the government’s financial crisis

THE Public School System is not receiving the funds it should get. PSS personnel are understandably alarmed and upset — as they should be. They want the central government and the Board of Education to answer their questions and point out possible solutions.

Proposing solutions is easy. Implementing them and obtaining the desired result are not.

In the school system’s case, the obvious solution is for the government to give PSS the money that the government allotted for PSS. Just one problem. Because the economy has slowed down, the government is not collecting the amount of revenue it expected to collect; but it still has to pay, besides PSS, other government agencies, programs, services and obligations.

It is the administration’s position — and many lawmakers agree — that whatever government revenue is being collected should go to the most pressing obligations because failure to pay them will be disastrous for the CNMI government and the people it employs and serves. These obligations include the Settlement Fund and bond payments, government payroll, medical referrals and overdue vendor payments especially those that involve other critical agencies such as MVA.

The revenue pie has shrunk and everyone must receive smaller slices while we wait for tourist arrivals to improve, and for the FEMA reimbursements and other funding sources to trickle in — soon, we hope.

Some believe that other “less deserving” agencies are getting bigger slices than “more deserving” ones. This is, to be sure, a serious issue that should be discussed openly and publicly because many people would want to know if it’s true.

Now if there are lawmakers who disagree with how the administration is dealing with the government’s financial predicament, then they should offer their own proposals, preferably through legislation. But simply insisting that the administration should do what we want it to do because we’re right may not be enough. First of all, such an approach rarely works, if ever, in normal adult relationships. “Just do what I say. You’re a bad person if you don’t.” It is highly doubtful that it could be effective in politics or policy-making.

In any case, we have already established that the administration is dealing with the crisis by rationing available government funds to agencies, programs, services and vendors.

So the question is: what are the government’s other options?

What about a proposal to take funds from other agencies, programs, services or obligations —and give them to PSS instead? That should “work.” PSS would have more money. Sorry other agencies, programs, services, vendors. Students First and all that. It’s the law.

Such a proposal, of course, must specify the agencies, programs, services or vendors that would have to take it on the chin, so to speak. It should also identify the government employees and businesses that will also take the hit. So introduce the bill. Conduct public hearings. Let’s be transparent.

As we’ve said, the administration is opposed to such drastic measures so it is up to our undoubtedly-pro-education lawmakers to introduce the necessary legislation that should, if enacted, provide PSS with the funding it needs. The other agencies, programs, services and vendors should understand. It’s for a good cause.

The other “solution” is to collect what the much despised casino investor (whose money no one despises) supposedly owes the CNMI government. But is it true? IPI says it believes it has overpaid the government. The Department of Finance, for its part, says the government and IPI are trying to settle tax issues. There may be no millions and millions of dollars just lying around somewhere out there.

Shutting down public schools is another “option.” But is it sensible to prevent students from going to school to “fight” for their right to go to school? It doesn’t sound right. There should be a better way — preferably one that would not disrupt student learning.

And we probably should be careful with our language. “Fight”? Some students may go online and learn that the word could mean, among other things, to “take part in a violent struggle involving the exchange of physical blows or the use of weapons,” or “a violent confrontation or struggle.”

We’re talking about the budget. And the children are watching and listening. If we cannot respect opinions we disagree with, we can at least acknowledge that there are people who hold other opinions. We can argue and debate civilly as we appeal to the public, including voters.

In other words, we can act like the adults we want our children to be.

Meanwhile, let’s make sure that schools remain open and safe; that school buses are up and running; that students are learning what they’re supposed to learn; that teachers and other school personnel are getting paid on time; and that their questions are answered promptly by those who have the answers even if these are what no one wants to hear.