New laws signed to clear the way for repair of Guam public schools
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Guam's public schools stand to receive millions of dollars and procurement aid, courtesy of three newly signed laws that will address the Department of Education's facility woes.
Bills 29-37, 32-37 and 46-37, which Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero signed into law over the weekend, were aimed at upgrading school facilities before the start of the coming school year
“I’m grateful the governor agrees that these measures are a critical component in addressing the Legislature’s responsibility to save our schools,” Sen. Chris Barnett said.
“These public laws not only put in place the goals and standards our stakeholders and students are demanding, but they also provide the methods and the means to reach those goals," he added.
Barnett’s Bill 29-37, now Public Law 37-4, will help the education department come into compliance with the Department of Public Health and Social Services' sanitation rules and regulations by the start of the next school year.
“I’m thankful my colleagues supported the first bill I introduced and even more thankful the governor showed her support for our schools and students by allowing it to lapse into law,” Barnett said.
“I know that change is not always easy, but doing things the same old way has not worked yet. These fresh solutions will only work if we all come together to set them in motion, and that is what Public Law 37-4 will do," he added.
Barnett said he is confident GDOE Acting Superintendent Judi Won Pat’s tiered facilities repair and maintenance plan is a great road map to reach P.L. 37-4's goals.
Won Pat has committed to monthly check-ins with the education committee to update Senators about the progress in meeting P.L. 37-4's mandates.
Sen. Chris Duenas’ Bill 32-37 , now P.L. 37-5, appropriates $20 million to GDOE for facility repair and maintenance.
The bill originally appropriated $30 million from the general fund to the education department, but the Governor used her line-item veto powers to veto the $10 million FY24 appropriation senators had unanimously approved.
“I’m disappointed the governor chose to short-change our students and our schools, especially after she passed the buck on education to the Legislature during her state of the island address,” Barnett said.
“But $20 million for our schools is still a huge win, and I know this will go toward addressing important projects federal dollars may not get to. I am grateful to Education Vice Chair Senator Duenas for having the courage to introduce this measure, which sought to recoup money for projects that went to raises last year. I am also grateful to my colleagues for seeing past partisanship and pushing this bill through.”
The governor also signed Sen. Sabina Perez’s Bill 46-37, which was co-sponsored by Barnett.
Bill 46-37, now P.L. 37-6, provides temporary expedited procurement protest procedures for acquisitions funded with ARP, ESF and Head Start grant monies.
“P.L. 37-6 helps GDOE address the impending deadlines for spending federal dollars that will cover the cost for most of the department’s big-ticket projects,” Perez said. "
Acting Superintendent Won Pat asked for this, and we are glad we can give our schools tools that help avoid costly and time-consuming delays," she added.
Barnett called on GDOE to continue moving forward to come into compliance with P.L. 37-4 and he stays committed to helping DPHSS prioritize its role in regulating schools’ adherence to safety and sanitation rules and regulations.
“I listened to our students, their families, staff and school stakeholders when they said enough is enough,” Barnett said.
“When GDOE and DPHSS leadership said what we all want from our school system and when we want it is unreasonable and unrealistic, I kept pushing forward because that is what I promised to do. There are many other issues in our school system that demand our attention, and now that we have begun to address the state of our school facilities, we can focus on learning, discipline, mental health concerns and safety on our kids’ campuses.”