Marianas Variety

Last updateTue, 27 Aug 2019 12am

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    Monday, August 26, 2019-8:52:03P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Official: PSS may lose teachers if salary raises are rolled back

EDUCATION Commissioner Glenn Muna on Monday said they may lose a lot of teachers if the Public School System rolls back the salary increases for more than 1,000 PSS employees.

At the budget hearing conducted by the House Committee on Ways and Means, Muna said the compensation plan, which was implemented in 2017, provided PSS employees with competitive salary rates.

Glenn Muna

“For the first time in many years, we did not have to send recruiters to the mainland to recruit teachers,” he said. “For the first time ever, we have a pool of qualified applicants.”

Before the Board of Education approved the compensation plan in 2017, then-BOE member Herman T. Guerrero noted that the CNMI had the nation’s second lowest salary rates for teachers.

Muna said PSS has been working hard to ensure that every classroom has a teacher and every school has counselors.

“If we were to revisit the compensation plan and lose the competitive salary, we might lose a lot of our staff who will look for better opportunities elsewhere,” he said.

For its fiscal year 2020 budget, PSS is asking the central government $50.8 million.

In a letter to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Muna and Board of Education Chairwoman Janice Tenorio stated that the school system’s current personnel costs amount to over $42 million; operations, $4.5 million; instructional materials, $966,110; and utilities, $2.5 million.

PSS is also requesting $12 million for capital improvement projects that include the repair of schools severely damaged by the typhoon.

Muna said Hopwood Middle School and Da’ok Academy had to be relocated because their school buildings were destroyed by Typhoon Yutu.

Hopwood Middle School is currently holding classes at FEMA-provided shelters at Koblerville Elementary School while students of Da’ok Academy are currently attending classes at the Northern Marianas Technical Institute.

Muna said four other schools — William S. Reyes Elementary School, Oleai Elementary School, San Vicente Elementary School and Francisco M. Sablan Middle School — are still on double sessions.

“Our goal for the next school year is to bring those schools back on the regular whole-day session,” he added.

He said PSS will need an additional $3 million to hire more teachers and counselors to be able to comply with a student-teacher ratio of 25:1 as required by BOE.

Currently, Muna said, there are some schools that have over 30 students in a classroom. “Right now, it is very difficult to comply [with the 15:1 student-teacher ratio rule], given our financial situation.”

He added the PSS also intends to have two instructors each for Chamorro and Carolinian in public schools.

“The [current teachers] are not able to serve the children every day. They have a breakup schedule. We want to sustain our culture and heritage, but how do we do that with very limited resources?” Muna asked.

The administration has proposed an FY 2020 budget of $36.7 million for PSS.

“We are very mindful that we may not get [our budget request],” Muna said. “But we need to know what will be the exact amount so we can start going back to the drawing table and see what we can eliminate.”

Under the CNMI Constitution, PSS “shall be guaranteed an annual budget of not less than 15 percent of the general revenues of the Commonwealth through an annual appropriation.”

But Muna said the school system’s budget “is like a drop in the bucket compared to how much other states and Guam pump into their educational institutions.”