House panel approves bill expanding subsidies for private schools

A House of Representatives committee on Monday approved a measure establishing the Private Basic Education Voucher Program that would cover students from kindergarten to secondary schools. During the hearing, the House Committee on Basic Education and Culture, chaired by Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo, approved a substitute bill, which would repeal certain sections of the Republic Act (RA) 6728 or Expanded Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education Act. Under the proposed Basic Education Voucher Program, the government will provide vouchers to recognized private basic education schools for kindergarten, elementary, and secondary students. Subsidies are currently being provided only to senior high schools. The Department of Education (DepEd) shall determine the amount of the vouchers. The total amount would not be less than the amount currently provided by the DepEd. The voucher assistance for students would be based on tuition and other fees charged by the schools, and the socio-e conomic needs of each student. Students who are most vulnerable and underprivileged, or those belonging to the bottom first to fifth income deciles, as determined by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), shall be prioritized for the program. The priority students would receive a higher voucher amount. The participating private basic education schools, meanwhile, shall receive assistance based on the percentage of priority students in the school, the overall performance of the schools based on the rankings of its students in national and international assessments, and the geographic spread and size of student enrollment. The bill also proposes the creation of the Bureau of Private Education (BPE) under the DepEd to serve as the focal office for the administration, supervision and regulation of all matters relating to private basic education institutions, including government assistance and subsidies. The BPE shall monitor and assess the implementation of the private basic education institutions of the policies, plans, and programs established by the DepEd. It shall also set and enforce minimum standards for programs and institutions of learning, and ensure that the activities, efforts and performance of private basic education institutions shall meet the high standards of excellence and accountability. The committee also approved HB 3174, seeking to rationalize the allocation of the Department of Education budget for capital outlay, to address the recurring problem of classroom shortage, especially in public schools. The bill, authored by Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Ralph Recto, would amend for the purpose RA 7880, or the Fair and Equitable Access to Education Act. Source: Philippines News Agency