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Education Board rallies against legislation

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Emotional testimony was heard at the Legislature this morning as members of the Guam Education Policy Board testified against legislation would disrupt their plans to a Tiyan high school. "We're the one getting hit senators not you," said Maria Atalig Gutierrez.

Guam Education Board vice chairperson called on senators to walk in their shoes, to see for themselves just how bad the overcrowding situation is at George Washington High School in Mangilao. "I challenge you to try going there," she said.

So why is Gutierrez and all other GEB members and the Department of Education opposing Bill 309 today?  The legislation would appropriate a portion of anticipated additional Section 30 revenues or $10 million to expand George Washington High School.

GEB member and parents of a student attending public school, Kenneth Chargualaf said, "In reviewing the proposed bill and if it becomes law, the legislation mandates to transfer both students and DOE employees out of Tiyan campus upon completion the expansion of GW High School."

According to Bill 309 introduced by Senator Ben Pangelinan and Vice Speaker BJ Cruz,  once the expansion is done at GW no students would be transferred into the Tiyan facilities, no tax credits would be authorized to construct a new DOE gym , DOE office, DOE warehouses or mezzanines within the Tiyan facilities in FY14 and beyond. Evidently its this language that had GEB and DOE asking lawmakers to pull back the bill, and requesting they stop micromanaging DOE.

GEB board chairperson Dr. Jose Cruz said, "We do not support the bill especially in light of one of the major intentions to undo some of the policy decisions that have already done by the Legislature and some of the policy decisions that we've already actually worked towards fulfilling." And Chargualaf added, "You entrusted us to execute our responsibilities as board member and we therefore petition this body to honor existing statutes that governance and management of DOE."

Gutierrez asked that senators stop putting the island's school children in the middle of politics. "Regardless of who owns Tiyan, regardless of who is in the administration let's stop that," she said.

The board recommended lawmakers stop focusing on Tiyan but address other priorities for education. "The GEB desires to influence the wisdom of our good lawmakers to consider instead investing funds for the  construction for additional schools in central and northern districts and allow DOE to  move forward to welcome over 1,400 students in Tiyan in August this coming school year and subsequent years thereafter," he said.

After listening to the testimony Senator Pangelinan invited the board to come up with alternatives and suggestions because GovGuam simply can't afford the price tag for Tiyan High. "I understand the board and your plans but understand that what the direction you're moving in with regards to Tiyan is going to cost this government $256 million that's what its going to take to continues to support  Tiyan to exist according to your plans and we don't have $256 million," he said.

GEDA's Lester Carlson presented testimony on behalf of Governor Eddie Calvo. The governor is opposed to the legislation and warned what would happen should it pass. "It is an abomination and if somehow 8 senators are somehow able to shackle their conscious face the people and lie to them with empty promise and mandate unsafe conditions at GW students Governor Calvo will surely veto this bill," he said.

Bill 309 would also appropriate additional Section 30 monies to go toward fully funding hay pay raises,  as well as hiring 20 additional police officers and prosecutors for the AG's Office.
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