Guam – Speaker Judi Won Pat believes that the money the Department of Education needs is already in the Department of Education’s Budget for the current fiscal year.
Following a meeting with School Superintendent Dr. Nerissa Underwood Thursday morning, the Speaker released a statement saying that she “has determined that the funds for the Department of Education shortfall can be made available from the appropriations of the current fiscal year.”
In a statement released Thursday night, the Speaker comes down solidly on the side of BBMR Director Bertha Duenas who in recent months has repeatedly said that sufficient funds are available to allow DOE to get through the current fiscal year which ends September 30th.
Won Pat states: “These appropriations are clearly sufficient for the current Fiscal Year according to BBMR calculations.” She adds, “There is no reason to shut the schools down.”
And the Speaker places blame for this latest threat from DOE to shut down the schools squarely on the Department of Education itself.
“This is the second – if not third or fourth – time in a row the exact same thing has happened,” says the Speaker, “DOE’s budget has increased, not decreased, under my watch.”
“The same mistakes should not be happening over and over.”
Wednesday, Superintendent Underwood declared a State of Emergency for the Guam Public Schools and called the Guam Education Board into an emergency meeting Friday to discuss their immediate need for $5 million dollars to get the school system through the end of the fiscal year. Without those funds the Public Schools system would be forced to shut down as soon as Monday.
The Speaker then called for the Thursday morning meeting with Superintendent Underwood.
Speaker Won Pat’s release says that during that meeting she and Dr. Underwood worked through the numbers and identified the funds that have yet to be released from BBMR.
It is not clear how the Speaker was able to identify $5 million dollars in DOE’s budget when DOE’s financial management team could not. Nor is it yet clear whether or not Dr. Underwood and her team agree. The Superintendent was unavailable for comment Thursday night.
In her release, the Speaker states that “Governor Camacho must release the funds from existing appropriations and that “there is no need to use next year’s money to cover this shortfall.”