New teachers in public schools in the Philippines today receive a monthly pay of P15,649 ($348), an amount that is obviously barely enough.

The low pay is perhaps the biggest disincentive to those who harbor dreams of becoming public school teachers. Each year, thousands take education courses in college but when they graduate, teaching in the public schools is not considered a good option. Many work elsewhere. Some try their hand in public schools but with the long-term goal of merely obtaining teaching experience so they can land teaching jobs abroad.

The low pay also reflects the Philippine government’s low regard for public school teachers. The executive and legislative branches routinely promise to raise the budget for education but ignore pleas for salary increases for public school teachers. This is understandable because it is more lucrative for officials to appropriate and release money for classrooms and school buildings.

The daily challenges teachers face are many. On top of teaching, they have families to feed and children to bring to school as well. These challenges lead many teachers to a life deep in debt, in their attempts to “make do” with the small amount government throws at them. Even if they wanted to take postgraduate studies or attend short courses, they simply can’t because they have no savings.

We have yet to talk about the deductions and how the Government Service Insurance System maltreats the public school teachers especially when they seek to avail of money that supposedly belongs to them through loans.

Thus, House Bill 2142 or “the Public School Teachers’ Salary Upgrading Act” deserves our strongest support. Supporting it means supporting raising the standard of living and sustaining the dignity of all public school teachers. 

If approved, the bill raises the minimum salary grade level of public school teachers from Salary Grade 11 (P15,649) to Salary Grade 15 (P24,887).

The bill’s principal author, ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio, said it will cover public school teachers in elementary and secondary schools, including those in vocational and technical schools and state universities and colleges, whether nationally or locally-funded.

As Tinio puts it, “current teachers’ pay does not ensure a decent standard of living for themselves and their families.”

Tinio added that “their pay doesn’t compare favorably with those in similarly-qualified occupations.”

Tinio said that the family living wage in the National Capital Region is estimated at P957 per day or more than P21,054 per month.

“In order to cope with this ‘living salary gap,’ teachers resort to borrowing and are heavily indebted to government financial institutions such as the GSIS, private lending institutions, or loan sharks,” he added.

The solon notes that “a duly licensed professional teacher occupying the entry-level position of Teacher I, with a monthly salary of P15,649, earns substantially less than a high school graduate who enters the Philippine Military Academy as a cadet, with a monthly ‘salary’ of P21,709 ($482).”

Tinio also compared teachers salaries with those in call centers: “The salary for call center employment, which requires neither formal education nor bachelor’s degree, ranges from P12,500 ($278) to P20,000 ($444) a month. It’s no wonder we’re seeing some of our best teachers leaving the country to work abroad, whether as teacher or even as domestic helpers, nannies, or caregivers.”

Let us support this bill. We hope a senator would come forward and file a counterpart bill in the Senate.