Hiring freeze causing teachers to pick up even more responsibilities

The exterior of the Guam Department of Education in Tiyan Barrigada in Tiyan, Barrigada. PNC file photo

Guam – Rising costs and facing a $15 million shortage from the fiscal year 2018 appropriation, which is also $132 million less than what requested, in an attempt to deal with a Catch-22 scenario, chaos seems to be the modus operandi at Guam Department of Education – with one board member questioning, “if learning is actually happening?”

Faced with the impossible, Guam Education Board members discussed two resolutions at a work session yesterday: Resolution 2018-16 which adopts a spending plan and Resolution 2018-17, requesting a supplemental budget.

Ranging from a wide variety of concerns, from student athletes not having football helmets until game day, to forfeiting games because of the lack of uniforms, being unable to recruit and retain teachers, to losing three teacher-of-the-year nominees to non-GDOE entities, restrooms not being cleaned, vendors using their non-payment as leverage for not being terminated–it all comes down to one thing: budget cuts.

The recently enacted budget act already shows drastic impacts to the local school system by having to cut an anticipated 76 support personnel, leaving teachers, who are already over-burdened with these shortages, to pick up extra responsibilities.

While the law calls for a government-wide hiring freeze, GDOE is exempted from that provision–limited to only hiring teachers.

The Guam Education Board contends that there are other critical positions that are needed in order to assist the department in carrying out its mission. Currently there are eight vacant school aide positions as well as a safety administrator position that remain unfilled. Due to the nature of these positions as being non-classroom positions, GDOE is prohibited from hiring for these positions.

Meanwhile, while GDOE’s operational allotments have been cut by the legislature and Adelup, the anticipated contribution towards the charter schools have now increased. For FY 2019, GDOE will be contributing $9.7 million toward the charter schools, an additional $1.1 million from FY 2018.

PNC reached out to Board-Chairman Mark Mendiola, who stated that “with a cut in GDOE’s appropriations and an increase in its obligations, GDOE board-members explore the possibility to potentially request the legislature for a new funding source, in order to avoid serious repercussions that will affect the overall mission of the department.”

Members of the 34th Guam Legislature were invited to attend the work-session, specifically Speaker B.J. Cruz, Vice-Speaker Therese Terlaje, Chairperson of the Committee on Education Senator Joe San Agustin, and Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on Education Senator Wil Castro. However, according to Mendiola, none of them showed up.

The resolutions will be reviewed by board members before putting it to a vote during their next board meeting.