DOE to need $21M more
Additional funding would cover standards set by Bill 1

By Oyaol Ngirairikl
Pacific Daily News
May 25, 2005

The Department of Education will need an additional $21.5 million for the coming fiscal year if recent legislation passed by lawmakers, which allows parents to sue if public school officials fail to give students an adequate education, becomes law.

During budget hearings last month, education officials said the department needs at least $184.2 million to cover salaries, utilities and other costs for fiscal 2006. DOE Superintendent Juan Flores yesterday said Bill 1, or the "Every Child is Entitled to an Adequate Public Education Act," if signed into law, could raise the price tag of public education.

While he supports the intent of the legislation, Flores said the department would need an additional $21.5 million for fiscal 2006 to come into compliance with Bill 1. If the bill is signed into law, it goes into effect in 2007.

The additional money needed includes: $5 million to ensure classrooms are kept at 78 degrees Fahrenheit; $15 million to ensure schools are clean; and $1.5 million to ensure current teachers, administrators, guidance counselors and school nurses are fully certified.

Sen. Robert Klitzkie, R-Yigo, initially introduced Bill 1 during the previous legislative term, to no avail. Senators then said there were concerns about the cost it would take to implement the bill if it became law. Undeterred, Klitzkie re-introduced the bill earlier this year, and after a public hearing and several revisions, Bill 1 was passed on Friday.

The Yigo senator said the cost of meeting the requirements set by Bill 1 are realistic.

"We have a list of 14 points that we say constitute an adequate education, (but) it's not as though we're going to start doing 14 things we've never been doing before," Klitzkie said.

"Let's take the drinking water provision. If you were to start out from scratch, it would cost a fortune, but we're already providing drinking water and washing water for the kids, so we have to presume that we're already spending money, and that money is included in DOE's budget."

Bill 1 requires education and other government officials to provide the environment and materials -- such as clean schools, certified teachers and comfortable classrooms -- so that Guam's 30,000 public school students receive an adequate education. The legislation also empowers parents, on behalf of their children, to sue the government and government officials should GovGuam fail to meet the standards of an adequate education as defined by the law.

Bill 1 gives the education department and the government until 2007 to ensure the 14 standards set forth in the legislation are met.

10 days
The governor has 10 days, not counting Sundays, from the day he receives a bill to act on the measure before it automatically becomes law. The bill was passed by the Legislature on May 20, but Erica Perez, governor's spokeswoman, said that as of 5 p.m. yesterday, the governor's office had not received a copy of the legislation.

"Once it is transmitted to our office, the governor will review it and will take action on it within the required time," Perez said.

Perez could not say whether the governor will sign Bill 1 or whether the governor was confident the government could meet the standards as set by the measure.

According to written testimony submitted to the Legislature in January, George Bamba, a senior adviser to the governor, said the governor wants to ensure the highest quality education the government can provide. The administration's letter also noted that DOE's favorable testimony on Bill 1 reflects the position of the governor's Legislative Review Committee.

Klitzkie said he has urged the governor to sign the bill, saying he hasn't received any indication to "cause me to believe that the stance of the governor has wavered."

This article was published with the permission of the publisher of the Pacific Daily News, Guam. Any republication of this article without the explicit permission of the Pacific Daily News is in violation of federal copyright laws.



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