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Last updateThu, 20 Jun 2019 12am

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    Tuesday, June 18, 2019-8:37:55A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Teachers urge lawmakers to summon governor, other officials

PUBLIC School System teachers on Tuesday urged House members to exercise their oversight power and summon the governor and other administration officials so they can “explain” the government’s current financial mess.

The close to 100 teachers, along with principals and Board of Education members, expressed their sentiments about the “deep” cuts in the education budget.

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Public School System teachers gather in the House lobby during Tuesday’s session.  Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

BOE members Andrew Orsini and Marylou Ada informed the House members that schools may shut down.

Orsini said PSS is now going through “tremendous financial crisis” so it won’t be able to continue “normal operations.”

He said close to 11,000 children go to classes every school day so “if we will continue to have this kind of financial status, we’re looking at shutting down the schools.”

Ada said that after the governor’s budget-cut directives, “we don’t know where to cut anymore.”

From $42 million, she said the PSS budget is down to $23 million.

“We cannot operate schools like this,” Ada added. “If you’re cutting us more, we would have to shut down schools. [But] we owe our children a better future.”

Former Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan who joined the BOE members and the teachers told lawmakers that allowing the schools to shut down “is a disgrace for our children.”

She reminded lawmakers that they have the power to conduct an oversight hearing, to subpoena the governor “and let him explain.”

She said in two weeks, “200 college graduates will be unemployed and 600 high school graduates will drastically change their plans due to what’s going on in the Commonwealth.”

William S. Reyes Elementary School teacher Phyllis Ain asked the House members to “please exercise your oversight function: ask the Office of Management and Budget chief and the Finance secretary where the money went. Subpoena them. Bring the governor here.”

Francisco M. Sablan Middle School Grade 8 teacher Alex Borja told the lawmakers that students “see what’s going on.”

He said “students are smart, so if they continue to see that there’s no better life for them here on island, once they graduate, we’re going to lose them.”

Associate Education Commissioner for Student Supports Services Yvonne Pangelinan said the people have “the right to know the facts,” and “teachers demand answers.”

Saipan Southern High School teacher Rose Ajoste said deeper cuts in the PSS budget will lead to a “mass exodus of teachers looking for greener pastures.”

The central government said it has to impose budget cuts because of a drop in government revenue collection due to a decline in tourist arrivals that has weakened the economy. The devastation caused by Typhoons Mangkhut and Yutu in September and October also forced the CNMI government to spend millions of dollars on relief and recovery efforts. But the CNMI is hoping to be reimbursed for these costs by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.