Guam – The Guam Education Board members held their monthly board meeting on Tuesday September 25, 2018 in Tiyan. Throughout the meeting, board members pointed out the hypocrisy of elected officials. Each election, candidates campaign on the notion that you do it for the kids, but when it comes time to enact legislation, as recently witnessed by the budget bill, that sentiment seems to be lost.
“The rest of the United States sees purpose in education, but apparently not all of our senators down at the legislature, don’t see education as a priority. They see it as votes to continue to be a senator.” James C. Lujan, Guam Education Board
The GDOE allocation for FY 2019 was slashed by over $114 million. As time goes on, more and more obligations are levied on the department, with no raise in the allocations. Recently, teachers have gone to get higher degrees in order to benefit students by becoming better teachers. Previously, teachers who took the initiative would be compensated through pay raises, or even bonuses. Due to the dire state of GovGuam’s finances, restrictions have been placed on giving out raises or bonuses.
Restrictions are also in place for promotions of personnel. While a hiring freeze is in effect, there are exceptions to hire for certain positions, teachers, fall under that exception. In the event that a non-entry-level position opens up, ideally GDOE would look internally to promote a candidate. With the current budget bill, written to prohibit promotions as a means of cost-control, in essence, if a non-entry-level position opens up, GDOE would then need to hire externally, even if a qualified candidate was available. GDOE is following up with DOA to address this issue.
Numerous board members expressed their concerns regarding the additional costs that are being subtracted from their budget for the Charter Schools system. Board members expressed concerns that there are underlying issues regarding the charter school, and it should not be GDOE that is tasked with mitigating these issues. In the event that GDOE is asked for guidance, or training, GDOE should then bill the charter schools, instead of providing their services for free. If a parent felt that they wanted something different for their student, that parent is then allowed to seek out a private school education for their pupil, but not have Guam taxpayers foot the bill.
With the new fiscal year being a few days away, the education board passed Resolution 2018-16, a spending plan for FY 2019. One provision in the resolution required that the superintendent be required to prepare a supplemental budget request. GDOE is struggling to meet their legally mandated obligation towards students given the budget constraints. One board member urged his colleagues to consider potentially suing the Guam Legislature. James C. Lujan stated that “I am thinking that this board needs to take action whether to sue the legislature or whomever the powers may be that is denying this education to function appropriately.”
The Superintendent acknowledges that even with all the proactive cost-cutting measures taken by the department, it will definitely be a very tough year ahead. Based on the amount of funding that the department was asked to absorb, hard decisions will need to be made, should the department want to make it to the end of the year. He assured the board that his decisions, will be calculative, and made to make sure that students will not be harmed.