The Department of Education (DepEd) said it did not deliberately exclude funding for programs catering to learners with disabilities under its proposed 2023 budget.
The DepEd also defended its “confidential funds” item included in its budget.
The department said it initially allocated P532 million for special education (SPED) programs in its proposed budget, ABS-CBN News reported.
“Unfortunately, despite our earnest efforts to advocate for learners with special needs, [the proposed allocation] was not considered in the National Expenditure Program (NEP),” the DepEd said.
The department originally asked for more than P800 billion for 2023 but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) allotted P710.6 billion in the proposed NEP.
Reports said education and infrastructure are the top items in the proposed P5.2-trillion 2023 national budget.
The cut led to zero funding for several projects and programs, such as engineering activities for basic education facilities, school health facilities, and the SPED program, ABS-CBN News reported.
The lack of allocation for SPED “is a recurring circumstance every year,” the DepEd said, adding that it would work with Congress “to find other ways” to fund the program.
DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa, quoted by ABS-CBN News, said the SPED program also had no allocation under the 2021 NEP but was eventually funded under the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
The DepEd also defended the P150-million confidential expenses under its proposed 2023 budget, saying such item was “allowed for all civilian offices” and had a legal basis under a 2015 joint circular issued by the DBM.
The DBM meanwhile said the DepEd’s proposed budget does not include its SPED program because some budget items may still be “realigned” and “modified.”
The DepEd earlier clarified that it initially proposed a budget of P532 million for its SPED program, but it was “not considered in the National Expenditure Plan” despite its “earnest efforts” to advocate for learners with special needs.
The DBM, which is in charge of preparing the NEP, confirmed the DepEd’s initial proposal but noted that it lacked documentation to justify funding for the SPED program.
“While the Department of Education proposed the retention of the line item for the purpose under the FY [fiscal year] 2023 National Expenditure Program, no sufficient documentation was provided to support the same, such as: details of the proposed amount with specific purposes, basis of computations/parameters, status of the ongoing conversion and establishment of Inclusive Learning Resource Centers funded under FY 2021 and FY 2022 GAA,” the DBM said in a separate statement.
As of June 30, 2022, the DBM said SPED program under the FY 2022 General Appropriations Act has an obligation rate of 1.13 percent, or only PHP6.35 million out of PHP560.202 million allocation.
The DBM said this funding provision will still be valid until Dec. 31, 2023.
The agency also said programs that need additional funding may still be realigned and modified by the DepEd.