Teaching was not Julio’s*, 54, first dream, but having been orphaned at a young age, he had to accept the education undergraduate scholarship he was offered at a local college in Catanduanes. After 32 years of teaching, he eventually settled into the profession, though remained conscious of the problems that came with it.
Julio, who holds the rank of master teacher II, is unmarried. But he supports his two unemployed brothers with his monthly salary of P43,000 at Virac Pilot Elementary School. He lives a simple life to avoid racking in debt, fearing his earnings could not handle the unforeseen instability.
“I see to it na if possible, hindi ako mangungutang kasi … natatakot akong baka maliit na ang take home pay ko,” he said.
Over time, Julio’s dreams changed. He now merely wishes that his teacher salary were enough to accommodate the ever-increasing prices of goods. But while the Marcos administration has promised to raise wages or at least provide more benefits, educators like Julio have yet to feel a significant change.
A Call for the Raise
Anticipating the start of the 2024 national budget hearings, teachers took to the streets on August 10, demanding an increase in their starting salary to P50,000, and subsequent hikes for higher positions.
A teacher I, the entry-level position for public school teachers, currently receives P27,000 monthly. This has gone through a P6,000 rise since 2019 after the signing of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) V.
“Ang sweldo ay talagang hindi sumasapat. Talagang maraming kulang yan,” Julio said, adding that even with the annual automatic increases from 2019 to 2023 set by SSL V, he and his colleagues can barely keep up with the increasing price of goods.
Calls to increase salaries have been echoed by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), along with other workers and unionists, since the previous administration’s attempts for a living wage and abolition of contractualization have failed, said ACT National Chairperson Vladimir Quetua in an interview with Collegian.
Though then-candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. vowed to raise teachers’ salaries, Quetua noted that the president did not mention it in his 2023 State of the Nation Address. This promise further collapsed when Vice President Sara Duterte, who also serves as the secretary of education, opposed the idea of a salary increase, arguing that private schools might not be able to dole out higher wages.
ACT Private Schools confirmed in its 2023 survey of 103 private school teacher respondents that more than three in five private school educators are indeed paid less than entry-level public school teachers.
“The solution is not to deprive public school teachers of decent salaries but to raise the salaries of private school teachers to be [on] par with our colleagues in the public sector,” ACT Private Schools Secretary-General Jerome Geronimo said.
Duterte’s proposed solution, in a public briefing in July 2022, was to instead provide nonwage benefits to public school teachers. But just a few weeks later, Duterte said that the Department of Education (DepEd) was instead looking into a long-term approach on raising teacher wages in line with Marcos’s orders, contradicting her initial statement.
“Kung seryoso ang gobyernong Marcos sa usapin ng nonwage benefits o benepisyo in general, patunayan nila,” Quetua said. He demanded that the government remit the 77-day overtime pay and increase chalk and clothing allowance.
The annual allocations for supplies and clothing are currently P5,000 and P6,000 respectively, though the Senate has approved a bill in June to raise chalk allowance to P10,000. It is, however, still pending in the House of Representatives.
But even with this increase, these nonwage benefits—which are awarded only once a year at the rate set by the law—do not properly cover teachers’ other school-related expenses. Julio echoed this concern, citing the insufficient compensation for their personal expenses incurred when learning shifted to remote mode during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Out of 28,859 DepEd teachers, 73 percent purchased laptops, 61.7 percent paid for internet connection, and 51 percent covered printing expenses, all with their own money, according to a 2021 study by the National Research Council.
Even outside class hours, expenses continue piling. Accompanying students in co-curricular activities often compel teachers to spend out-of-pocket both in money and in time, as they receive little reimbursement and no extra pay, even for after-school hours consultations.
“Kahit hindi na office hours, may mga consultation pa yung mga bata. Yun ang naging overtime, wala nang pay yun. Pero okay lang naman kasi diba [teaching is] a noble profession,” Julio said.
Julio is not paid overtime despite it being outlined in section 13 and 14 of the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers that work beyond six hours of classroom teaching must be recompensed with at least 25 percent of the teacher’s basic pay.
Overtime work was also exacerbated by the pandemic, prompting ACT to demand compensation for 77 additional working days. DepEd countered this call in 2021, stating that extra duties done outside school days cannot qualify for overtime pay.
While ACT welcomes the possibility of nonwage benefits, they still worry about the effectiveness of its implementation, said Quetua. The inadequate compensation teachers like Julio endure, despite promises from the administration, is only a testament to the much-needed wage boost of their sector.
“Ang pinakaproblema talaga ng mga teacher ay finances. Talaga naman sigurong masyadong mababa ang salary ng mga teacher,” Julio said. ●
*Not his real name. The source was given anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
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