Administrators of the Guam Department of Education plan to request $376 million from the Guam Legislature for fiscal 2022, compared to its $208 million fiscal 2021 budget.
The $168 million difference accounts for plans to reopen in-person classes.
“The largest increases are in salaries and benefits, which indicate the new positions that are being requested,” Fernandez said at a Guam Education Board meeting.
Full-time and substitute teacher salaries will be $229 million. Fernandez said the agency expects to allocate 60% to 65% of local funds to staff salaries, but that usually increases to 80% once funds are distributed.
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In the budget, one of the largest requests is for capital improvements. Fernandez said the education board will assign funds to special education busing, expansion for early childhood education and the conversion of Chief Brodie Elementary School to middle school.
“Usually these are projects that would be handled through government financing, so we wouldn’t expect to pay for these capital improvements out of the operating budget,” Fernandez said.
The school system wants $43 million for projects to address health and safety at 35 school sites. According to Fernandez, only $892,000 was given in fiscal 2021 for that purpose.
“Unfortunately we don’t have a source of funding at the moment, nor does there seem to be an appetite for further borrowing on the government side to support capital improvement financing,” Fernandez said.
In fiscal 2021, the school system reported 350 open spots for teachers, 130 of which are needed at the elementary schools. For the next fiscal year, the department reports 281 vacant positions, including 122 school aides.
“We really need to be mindful that the services (are for) our students. This is where we prioritize our personnel and get them to multitask,” said Maria Gutierrez, chairwoman of the Guam Education Board.
Reach reporter Anne Wen at [email protected]