DepEd scored for lack of transparency on senior high school voucher program

ACT Teachers Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro scored the Department of Education (DepEd) for not releasing data on the implementation of the Senior High School (SHS) voucher system.

“DepEd failed to comply with the posting and transparency requirements set by law regarding the SHS voucher system,” said Castro. “These are billions of taxpayers’ money funneled into private schools. The public wants to know if these schools really accepted the number of voucher students corresponding to the funds given to them and, considering the costs of private school education, whether these students continued high school at all.”

Under Special Provision 14 of the DepEd budget in the General Appropriations Acts for 2016 and 2017, Secretary Leonor Briones and the DepEd website administrator are mandated to post in the websites of the DepEd and the Private Education Assistance Committee (PEAC) the list of beneficiaries and participating schools. The data are not available in both websites as of this writing.

The 2016 SHS voucher program, which gives funds to private schools accepting Grade 10 completers from public junior high schools, amounted to P11.18 billion. This increased to P23.85 billion in 2017 with an additional P1.17 billion for the technical-vocational track in private and non-DepEd public schools such as state and local universities and colleges.

“The DepEd falls short of the constitutional mandate on transparency when it fails to inform the public how exactly these billions are spent,” stressed Tinio, former chairman of the House Committee on Public Information. “This is troubling since the Commission on Audit noted several irregularities in the implementation of the GASTPE Program even before it was expanded to senior high school.”

Tinio refers to the COA 2013 audit report which observed, among others, that it cannot verify the fund releases of the GASTPE or Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in the Private Education due to the absence of necessary documents and records, including those pertaining to each grantee. The COA also directed DepEd and PEAC, which administers GASTPE on behalf of DepEd, to provide these records and open their books of account for audit by COA for transparency and accountability.

The solons called on DepEd to comply with the law’s posting requirement as soon as possible with the law’s posting requirement and to release enrolment data in Grades 11 and 12.

“Without this data, we cannot determine how effective the voucher system and the senior high school program are in terms of providing the youth access to high school education,” explained Tinio.

“The implementation of the voucher program must be checked especially in light of the lack of transparency and the red flags that COA raised. Instead of adding more funds for it, we should allot the amounts for the operations and maintenance of our public schools. Increasing funds for the voucher program means increasing reliance on private provision of senior high school, which we believe is contrary to the government’s duty to provide free high school education to Filipino children,” the solons ended. ###