AUDIO: Speaker’s Weekly Address – “Improving Our Island’s Public Schools”

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Guam – Speaker Judi Won Pat comments on the need to improve the island’s public schools in her Weekly Address today.

HEAR the Speaker’s Weekly Address HERE>>>6-3-14 speakers address.mp3

READ the Speaker’s Weekly Address below:

Improving Our Island’s Public Schools
Speaker Judith T. Won Pat’s Weekly Address
For Release – June 3, 2014

Buenas yan Hafa Adai,

In a recent editorial, the Pacific Daily News recommended that, “…senators should be working with the school board, the superintendent and the governor on a long-term plan to address our crowded schools and the need to build new campuses or expand existing schools.”

This is exactly what we have been doing at the Legislature. As the Chair of the Education Committee, I meet regularly with the Superintendent and other GDOE officials to address the specific needs of the Department. I have successfully introduced laws that will help GDOE improve our island’s public schools and keep them safe.

Laws that I introduced rebuilt JFK and expanded Okkodu to accommodate our growing population in the north; created a Foundation to allow GDOE to seek alternate funding sources; supported the use of solar energy at the schools, which will help to save school resources for other needs; and identified funding to be used specifically for the safety and protection of our schools through the Secure Our Schools Act, which, is close to being achieved as GSA recently put out an RFP for security cameras and equipment to protect our schools from vandalism and break-ins.

Planning ahead, especially when dealing with our schools is incredibly important. This is why I introduced Public Laws 32-120 and 32-121 to rehabilitate Simon Sanchez High School and all of our island’s schools that are not on lease-back contracts. Public Law 32-120 also identifies funding for a Comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan, which will be used to prioritize the different modernization projects necessary in our island’s schools based on population trends, transportation needs, curriculum, and other key factors. I want to commend the Department of Public Works, the Guam Economic Development Authority
and the Governor’s Office for pushing forward with these laws, as I heard an RFP is being prepared for the Comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan and will be released soon.

The Education Committee works hard to ensure our schools are receiving the support and funding they need to succeed. This is why I am being very cautious in proceeding with the public pre-school legislation. During a public hearing that was held on May 1st for the preschool initiative, Bill 274-32, Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instructional Improvement Joseph Sanchez stated that GDOE would need to identify at least $9 million dollars cumulative over the next five years. In Fiscal Year 2015, the Department would need only $1 million dollars for the initial implementation of public pre-school. The initial
funding would be used to support personnel, collateral equipment, renovation costs (to include identification of new facilities) to ensure that there is sufficient space to serve additional students, developmentally appropriate supplies and materials, and professional development to ensure that GDOE can maintain highly-qualified teachers for the Early Childhood Program.

While the Governor appropriated $4.5 million dollars in the FY2015 budget for the Preschool initiative, according to Mr. Sanchez’s testimony the need for the first year is far less, and the greater concern is how will the program be funded in the years that follow? We need to be sure that we can sustain the pre-school program in the long-term. In order to ensure we are proceeding responsibly, I have requested a mark-up of the bill with Sen. Aline Yamashita as the Bill’s sponsor, and Sen. Ben Pangelinan with the Office of Finance and Budget.

Amazing strides have been made in recent years to enhance the overall learning experience in our island’s public schools. I remain committed, as I have always been, to education and will continue to work closely with the Department of Education to meet the needs of our island’s students.