Legislature passes measure to transfer $430K to GDOE

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Bill 87 is an act to transfer $430,000 from the capitol district fund to the Guam Department of Education for maintenance and desperately needed repairs at GDOE school, some of which would go towards Simon Sanchez High School.

Guam – Last night’s legislative session extended late in the evening where lawmakers debated one bill for hours on end. That measure was Bill 87, an act to transfer $430,000 from the capitol district fund to the Guam Department of Education for maintenance and desperately needed repairs at GDOE school, some of which would go towards Simon Sanchez High School.

“Whether it’s a $100K or $430K and it goes to the needs of our schools and our students and our classrooms to ensure the safety of our students and the adequate facilities for our school teachers, Madame Speaker, it’s a good investment,” exclaimed Senator Frank Aguon Jr.

When Bill 87 was introduced it was with the original intent to make necessary repairs to Simon Sanchez High School, however, as the summer weeks slipped away, the Guam Education Board instead called on the Governor, to identify funds.

With $1.5 million dollars now set aside, GDOE asked for Bill 87 to include other projects beyond the scope of Simon Sanchez High School. And this is where some of the major source of contention stemmed from.

“Well, wasn’t this part of the plan?” questioned Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje, adding “Didn’t you have a plan to take care of Simon Sanchez since you are putting out an RFP and you know it’s going to take two years to construct the new Simon Sanchez High School?…Doesn’t DOE have to be planning for what we’re going to be doing for the next school year and the summer?”  

Senator Therese Terlaje argued that moving on a bill that she believed was materially different than originally drafted would set a dangerous precedent.

Superintendent Jon Fernandez, Education Board Chairman Pete Ada and other GDOE officials were on hand once again to describe the breakdown of the nearly half –a million dollar request. Repairs include: canopy and fence line repairs, safety compliance issues, and more.

At one point, Speaker BJ Cruz entertained the idea to simply go back to the bill’s original intent.

“Would the Department of Education have any problem if we amended this bill to return it to its original form of just Simon Sanchez and use the $430,000 on the conditions that we all thought was imperative and exigent that we needed immediately and not get into trying to determine whether we believed we wanted to support the rest of the list?” he asked.

To which, the Superintendent had no issue with.

“I think that would be fine, so if the bill would be amended to focus on Simon Sanchez High School, we would use those funds first and use them as fast as possible and then have more flexibility and more time to obligate the money given by the governor for other projects,” Superintendent Fernandez said.

But it wasn’t a done deal. A few hours later, Republican Senator Mary Camacho Torres spoke up.

“Yes, there is a need at DOE, but yes we all give the lion share of the budget to DOE. But I just wanted to end with this: I’ve kept quiet this whole time, we want to set a precedent in our government for sustainability; we want to set a precedent that we’re going to invest money in buildings we’re going to have a maintenance plan, we’re going to set aside money and we’re going to do what were sup to do we’ve done a very bad job at following that example,” she said.

Citing both Simon Sanchez and Southern High School as examples of public spending without proper planning, Sen. Torres was not a proponent for using the capital fund.

“Yes, there is a pressing need. I don’t think anyone here can say they don’t care about those kids. I don’t think there’s anyone here that says they’re going to turn a blind eye towards maintenance. I didn’t hear that the schools are not going to open because of maintenance. But we’ve also heard that they have ways of accounting for that. I dint hear that the schools are not going to open, I didn’t hear that. I didn’t hear that the sky is going to fall if we didn’t appropriate this money to DOE. So, where are we? Are we going to give away the store every time someone tugs at our heartstrings?” she explained.

But despite Senator Torres’s impassioned plea, the lawmaking body passed Bill 87 with nine ayes and 6 nayes.