San Nicolas: Lack of funds can't be used as an excuse to shortchange students
The Guam Department of Education has received a total of $201 million in Covid-19 related federal funds since last year. This amount is equivalent to 96 percent of the department's budget of $209 million in fiscal 2021.
Since Guam is awash in federal cash, the government can no longer use "lack of resources" as an excuse not to deliver the needs of Guam students, Congressman Michael San Nicolas said.
San Nicolas wrote to Sen. Joe San Agustin, chairman of the appropriations committee, urging him not to cut local appropriations for education just because Guam has received federal funds.
The Guam Department of Education is requesting a budget of $373.16 million budget for fiscal 2022. The proposed budget was $8.14 million more than what the department requested for FY 2021
"For decades we have all seen education underfunded due to budgetary constraints, with no textbooks and broken facilities being the norm rather than the exception," San Nicolas said in a letter to San Agustin. "We have also heard and recited the mantra that education is a priority, all the while underfunding primary and post-secondary education routinely."
In January, the U.S. Department of Education announced $110.5 million for Guam to help safely reopen schools, measure and effectively address significant learning loss, and take other actions to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the students and families who depend on K-12 schools in Guam.
An additional $33.3 million was intended to help Guam mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the students and families who depend on our K-12 schools, institutions of higher education, and other education-related organizations.
In March, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs announced $4 million in capital improvement project (CIP) grant funding to design a new Guam multi-purpose/emergency operations center and handle deferred maintenance needs in Guam's public schools.
Nikolao Pula, OIA director and the acting assistant secretary said the funds provide critical support to Guam for the ongoing deferred maintenance needs at schools.”
The CIP fiscal year 2021 grants announced included $3 million to fund the architectural and engineering design as well as site improvements for a new Guam Environmental Protection Agency multi-purpose center in Tiyan.
This year’s grants were in addition to the $54 million received by GDOE from the island’s Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) award, which was the $153.75 million allocated to the outlying areas through the ESF under section 18001(a)(1) of the CARES Act.
Another $1 million for the Guam Department of Education has been earmarked for ongoing deferred maintenance needs throughout Guam's public schools and an inventory and work order system, to optimize asset utilization and reduce operational cost across Guam’s schools.
"Now that we have significant federal funding on top of our initial local commitments we can no longer use the lack of resources as an excuse, nor should we all of a sudden turn our backs on education at a time when we should be putting our best foot forward," San Nicolas said.
"We are in direct communication with our education leaders, working with them to expand opportunities we never had before, and we encourage Chairman San Agustin to protect our local education funding for the sake of our future, our educators, and our school children," San Nicolas said.