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Teachers’ Fight for Higher Salaries

A Salary Grade is the zone of difficulty and responsibility of work. It includes all classes of positions which, although different with respect to kind or subject matter of work are sufficiently equivalent as to level of difficulty and responsibilities and level of qualification requirements of the work to warrant the inclusion of such classes of positions within one range of basic compensation (DBM, 1997).

Teachers, Administrative Officer I, nurses, cashier, librarian, postmaster, accountants, medical technologists, pharmacists, physical therapists, nutritionists, among others, are professionals who have taken a four-year course whose entry-level salaries are nailed at Salary Grade 11, or a monthly salary of P20,179 under EO 201 in 2018.

However, those who have completed two years studies in college or high school graduates like the prison guard III, park maintenance general foreman, carpenter general foreman, laboratory technicians, and midwives, medical equipment technician, data controller III, are some positions with SG 11 too.

Allan Peter Cayetano filed Senate Bills No. 94 in 2013 and No. 75 in 2016, explaining that the present salary grade given to teachers is not the appropriate salary grade that teachers should be entitled to, based on their qualifications. According to the DepEd, “Teachers should have the equivalent salary grade of a 1st Lieutenant in the Philippine Army, SG 17.” This was the same finding of the Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM) way back in 1991 when they recommended that the salary grade of a Teacher 1 should be SG 17. The EDCOM Report concluded that the level of compensation of teachers is low “relative to the functional definition of the teaching job, the sensitiveness of the teaching responsibility, the technical requirements of the job, the time required for it and the intellectual demand it makes.”

Similarly, Senator Edgardo Angara filed Senate Bill No. 69 in 2007. He proposed to upgrade the minimum salary levels of teachers to Grade 19 to make the salary increase more relevant given the increase in the present cost of living. This measure has been resurrected by his son, Sonny Angara, in the 17th Congress through Senate Bill 135 which he filed on June 30, 2016.

Moreover, the House Bills No. 1906, 119, and 1191 by Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Helen Tan, and Pia Cayetano, respectively, proposing to upgrade the minimum salary levels of teachers from Grade 11 to 19 have also been filed in 2016.

The enactment of RA 4670 proves that our country has an existing legal framework and sector-specific regulations to improve the social and economic status of public school teachers, their living and working conditions, their terms of employment and career prospects in order that they may compare favorably with existing opportunities in other walks of life, attract and retain in the teaching profession more people with the proper qualifications, it being recognized that advance in education depends on the qualifications and ability of the teaching staff and that education is an essential factor in the economic growth of the nation as a productive investment of vital importance (Cayetano, 2016). Congress has proposed several House Bills and Senate Bills that seek to remedy the current problems of teachers relative to the provisions of the Magna Carta which since its enactment in 1966 continues to be unimplemented. These bills remained pending when these could have been the measures that would improve our basic education sector and would prevent the massive exodus of the members of the teaching profession who are seeking jobs in other countries.

When Dr. Ethel Agnes Valenzuela, the senior specialist and current Research Director of SEAMEO-INNOTECH was commissioned by DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro to do a comparative study of the K to 12 Education in Southeast Asia, she studied the structure, content, organization and adequacy of Basic Education in Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia and Singapore as benchmarks against the Philippines. Based on the results of her study, she suggested some strategies for policymakers to improve Philippine Basic Education – the implementation of the K to 12 program (Soliven, 2012). The study looked at the number of years. It even caught details of the curriculum. Unfortunately, the most important difference was missed: TEACHERS’ SALARIES.

Existing laws have proven ineffectual at improving the status of teachers in society, and the Bills have failed to materialize into actual law. Still, the cries to solve the country’s basic education problems remain falling on deaf ears of our leaders. Dr. Cris Acido of the University of the Philippines College of Education was quoted as saying: “We don’t get the best minds because of the status we have given the teaching profession.”

Who and where are the powerful leaders that have a better feel for the poverty in the country? Is there a need to connect our leaders with the actual problems the poor teachers have? When would they ultimately listen? Should teachers go on mass leave to fight for higher salaries?

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Margarita Lucero Galias

Margarita L. Galias began her career in education as a high school math and physics teacher in Immanuel Lutheran High School in Malabon City and Manila Central University, Caloocan City before serving as a public school teacher in Sorsogon City in 1995. She was a university scholar and graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Education, major in Math-Physics from De La Salle Araneta University. She also holds a master’s degree in Management, major in Administration and Supervision from Sorsogon State College. She is now currently employed in Mercedes B. Peralta Senior High School as a classroom teacher and a guidance counselor designate.

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