PRIVATE SCHOOL teachers are appealing to the government for financial assistance to counter possible layoffs, with the education sector taking a big hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Council of Teachers and Staff of the Colleges and Universities of the Philippines (CoTeSCUP), a group of 13 unions and associations, also demanded transparency from schools as regards their financial condition, in a letter to five Cabinet officials last May 25.

The group’s lead convenor, UST Assoc. Prof. Rene Tadle, told the Varsitarian in an online interview that government support was needed to help some 50,000 private school teachers expected to lose their jobs.

CoTeSCUP is seeking “any financial assistance government provides to schools – such as wage subsidy to employees, provision of government’s scholarship through a voucher system for students … conditioned on the commitment of the school to preserve the employment of teachers and non-academic personnel,” Tadle said.

The group has received reports of salary cuts being imposed on teaching and non-teaching personnel of some schools. Since some schools are not organized, administrators can impose layoffs and pay cuts without hindrances, he said.

The group also noted that since late March, salaries of non-academic personnel in some colleges and universities have been reduced due to flexible work arrangements. Worse, some staff were placed on floating status without salaries. Contracts of some teachers in the university belt area in Manila were not renewed, it said.

“This is a common experience of academic workers even during the initial implementation of K-12 way back 2012. Note that most schools are not organized, they do not have unions to protect them or inform them of their rights under the law,” Tadle said.

“Government’s support to private schools could compensate for the loss of income and could help them weather the storm. Teachers and non-academic personnel are essential stakeholders, and they can’t be the first to go, when the boat is sinking,” he said.

Rev. Fr. Alain Manalo, secretary of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, said some schools have already decided to close for a year or two, but urged administrators to exert all efforts to avoid layoffs.

“Retrenchment and redundancy should be the least option. What many schools do to survive is to really rely on their savings, if they have. Ang ibang mga school diyan isang kahig isang tuka. They rely just on the tuition,” Manalo told the Varsitarian.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones, during a Senate committee hearing in May, said 263,000 private school teachers were affected by the pandemic, and 50,000 of these teachers faced layoffs.

Commission on Higher Education Chairman Prospero de Vera said the delay in the opening of classes would add to the struggle of small private schools in coping with the pandemic, and render part-time staff jobless.

CoTeSCUP’s letter was addressed to Briones, de Vera, Isidro Lapeña of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., head of the National Task Force Covid-19.