Guam Board of Education Chairman Mark Mendiola blasted Sen. Joe S. San Agustin’s new decentralized budget proposal for the Guam Department of Education and accused the appropriations chairman of trying to legislate education reform.
In an interview with Phill Leon Guerrero on NewsTalk K57, Mendiola said the education board was not consulted in the drafting of what he described as a nonstandard way of budgeting for the agency.
“The bill was just dropped on us. We are still trying to decipher it,” Mendiola said.
The General Appropriations Act of 2020 has a provision that allows the Guam Department of Education the flexibility to address its priorities by providing specific budgetary allocations to each of the schools under the department’s purview.
Out of GDOE’s $219 million budget, around $199 million has been itemized directly to public schools.
The budget bill also provides the principals the budgetary authority to transfer funds in between schools. This is the first time that this budgetary practice has been proposed for the public school system.
But Mendiola said principals themselves don’t want to handle funds and the budgeting process because they are already overworked and busy with the more important aspects of education.
“And if any of the 14 points of the Adequate Education Act is not complied with, the ones who get sued are the Guam Education Board and the GDOE Superintendent,” Mendiola said.
He added that the principals can always come to the GDOE superintendent and the education board which has always had an open-door policy.
Mendiola stressed that education has always had a clean audit. “So why the distrust in us managing GDOE? What is the rationale for this new non-standard way of budgeting? In the 1990s, they did that but it was ineffective,” he said.
During a press conference on Tuesday, San Agustin said that his new budget proposal places money directly into the schools. He also clarified that GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez is still in charge of the schools despite providing a limited budgetary authority to the principals.
The education board is having a work session today and Mendiola said senators are invited to attend so that they can discuss the budget further.
The GEB and GDOE Superintendent are also scheduled to meet with Vice Speaker Telena Nelson regarding the budget at 3 p.m. today in the Tiyan Building B Gallery.