The Superintendent of Education is alarmed at the Guam Legislature’s failure to act in support of a revenue solution that would support Guam schools.
“This is not a manufactured crisis, and we are already facing a $14.5 million cash shortfall,” Guam Department of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez said in reference to the revenue shortfall stemming from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. “For GDOE, that means we have to do something soon.”
“We have been fighting for the Guam Department of Education, with our senators, pleading for a solution,” Guam Education Board Chairman Mark Mendiola said. “Without a solution to this budget crisis, we have asked the superintendent to inform us what has to happen to ensure we are able to survive the budget reduction.”
The GDOE has already made $12 million in cuts through an initial round of strategic and responsible reductions to the department’s budget. However, without revenue relief, additional cuts are needed.
The second phase of cuts is anticipated to begin by March 19. The most significant Phase II cuts include a hiring freeze for all school-based positions and a directive to forego the use of all on-call substitutes to cover teacher absences. Right now there are 168 GDOE substitutes, and without their services, the department would save an estimated half a million dollars. However, the result is that additional pressure will be placed on schools to manage teacher absences. Limited-term teachers – retired certified teachers as well as college graduates working toward certification – will not be affected at this time.
On top of Phase II cuts, which are estimated to save $2.8 million, GDOE is also looking to a third phase of cuts, or Phase III. The most significant Phase III cuts include the consideration of the 32-hour work week.
Before GDOE can implement a 32-hour work week, it must first reduce operational costs as much as possible. GDOE proposes closing school facilities after hours and through the summer to save $2.7 million, which has the potential to impact sports activities, community activities and summer school services. Summer school services will be limited to graduating high school seniors and students with disabilities who require an extended school year. GDOE is also planning to delay the start of the school year until October 1st.
With these additional cuts, the department could implement a 32-work week, with July 1st being the soonest implementation date after the required 90-day notice. The 32-hour work week would affect all 12-month employees.
“We have been trying hard to avoid having to go down this path, but now that we are being forced to act, we want to let the public know that the next phases are going to have harmful effects on schools, employees and our stakeholders, including parents,” Fernandez added.
He sent a memo to all GDOE employees today explaining the gravity of the budget situation and the next anticipated cuts.
“The GDOE has been in communication with elected leaders, and has expressed support for Bill 248-34, which would implement a 2% sales tax to address the budget crisis, while also setting aside a portion dedicated for GDOE facilities. We continue to pray that elected leaders will find a solution soon, before these deeper cuts materialize and impact our department further,” Fernandez said.
—END OF STATEMENT—