Legislature says no to funding textbooks for private schools

By Jason M. Goldman-Hall
Variety News Staff

HAGÅTÑA — Days of debate and discussion were brought to a temporary close yesterday in the Guam Legislature, as lawmakers voted against an amendment proposed by Sen. Jesse Anderson Lujan, R-Tamuning, to allocate government money to private schools for textbooks.
Debate began at the beginning of the week over whether or not public funding should be given to schools outside the public system for supplies.

Some, like Sen. Robert Klitzkie, R-Yigo, opposed to the amendment because it got too close to the constitutional separation of church and state, although Lujan said the law the amendment was based on specifically barred any use of public funding for religious or sectarian books or purposes.

In support of the amendment, both Lujan and Department of Education Superintendent Juan Flores said the $1.3 million funding to allow private schools to continue to operate unimpeded would help all Guam students by preventing the closure of private schools.

According to Lujan, if those schools closed, the resulting influx into the public school system would be too much of a strain on the existing structure, and would end up costing more than $20 million.

Discussions of the amendment were prolonged because efforts were made to include Department of Education members as well as representatives of both public and private schools.

In addition, discussions sparked further debates over total funding for schools, allocation of funding, and Department of Education accountability.

Senate Majority Leader Lou Leon Guerrero, D-Tamuning, was vocal during the last discussions on the issue, and said that although she agreed with Lujan’s wish that “no child should be left behind,” she believed continued efforts to balance the budget would call for tighter use of funding, in an attempt to diminish any negative impact of budget reductions.

The issue of budget cuts still looms over the Legislature, as a motion Tuesday to introduce a supposedly balanced budget by Vice Speaker Frank B. Aguon, D-Yona, was rescinded after continued opposition from the Republicans, who were hesitant to adopt the revised budget without seeing a formal presentation first.  


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