Promise to sufficiently fund public education must be kept

SCHOOL TOUR: F.B. Leon Guerrero Principal Robert Martinez, left, escorts Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio during a tour of the Yigo campus on Feb. 8. Dontana Keraskes/The Guam Daily Post

This administration's promise to prioritize funding for public education hasn't been matched by its proposed spending for the 2020 budget.

In its submission to the Legislature, the proposed funding for public education falls short by more than $100 million.

Amid all of the mandates that lawmakers over the last few decades have imposed on our educational institutions, our education officials have had many challenges keeping up to meet a very basic goal: providing an adequate education for our children.

And whether it's at Astumbo Elementary School, John F. Kennedy High School, Guam Community College or the University of Guam, what's necessary is adequate funding – unless our island's lawmakers want to do away with some of the legislative mandates.

The Guam Department of Education bases its budgets on those mandates. For example, the Every Child is Entitled to an Adequate Education Act requires GDOE to, among other things, have certified teachers and administrators, and provide properly cooled classrooms and textbooks for every student. Anyone living on Guam would know that none of these goals have been consistently met at all the schools, but it's not for GDOE's lack of trying.

It has not been given sufficient funding to meet those requirements.

Meanwhile, GDOE is still trying to address $90 million in deferred maintenance. That cost is based on a report from the Army Corps of Engineers that is more than a decade old. It's pretty certain that since the report was released, there are more maintenance issues at the more than 40 public schools on island.

And we haven't even started discussing the charter schools, which also are publicly funded.

Guam Community College is launching another new program to help our public high school children as it implements the "middle college" program in schools. GCC has a good record of stretching its public dollars – even in the midst of budget cuts – and has managed to maintain programs that address the community's needs. However, GCC also constantly struggles to keep things running smoothly because it has had to juggle funds when the funding stream slows.

The University of Guam has stated it may have to increase tuition if it isn't able to receive its full budget request and if the release of its monthly funding allocations gets delayed.

We can talk about reducing costs and improving efficiencies, and we should do so as a community.

However, if elected officials promise that education is a key priority – and rightly so, because it will help provide our youth with what they need as they aim for success – that promise must be kept.

Education helped this administration pave its way to Adelup. It's the reason thousands of Guamanians filled the ovals on the ballot for Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio, as well as some of the senators. We now wait on our elected leaders to fulfill their promise and ensure the path to our children's successful future is sufficiently funded.

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