The Legislature’s recent actions are missing something. In an unbelievable flip flop of policy earlier this year forbidding the opening of public schools without a passing health and safety inspection grade, most senators last week voted to allow these schools to open anyway.
And the governor, of course, signed the bill into law.
Public Law 37-32, authored by Dwayne San Nicolas, skips every other law on the books regulating the conditions of public schools and instead allows the superintendent of education and the director of public health to determine which schools should open.
This new law trumps Chris Barnett’s Public Law 37-4, passed earlier this year, which essentially forbade the Guam Department of Education from opening schools without sanitary permits issued by the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services. Nearly 90 percent of public schools have been assessed to be in such hazardous conditions that they will fail public health inspections.
Within two days of the governor’s enactment of the new law rolling back standards for student and teacher health and safety, the legislature’s budget committee substituted the governor’s budget request with a Fiscal Year 2024 budget bill that does not provide local funding for school maintenance and deferred maintenance funding.
This is madness.
But, it’s par for the course for Guam’s politicians of today and yesteryear.
These issues have persisted through the decades to the point we are at today, and rather than to fix the problem, most elected officials are content with kicking the can of worms down the road even further. There are now no hard deadlines for results. There is no policy of accountability. And, worse, now students, teachers, and staff will be forced back onto unsafe and unsanitary campuses.
Parents, thanks to the compulsory education law, have no choice in this. As for the standards mandated by the Every Child is Entitled to an Adequate Public Education law? Our legislature and governor have just diminished it further.
Imagine that. This $1.1 billion government of Guam, funded and flushed by a massive 25 percent tax increase via gross receipts tax collections, and an across-the-board prioritization of a 22 percent pay raise, can’t provide kids an adequate education setting, much less schools safe from hazards.
There has to be accountability, and we believe senators can – at the very least – institute such.
If senators are intent on allowing these piss poor conditions to persist, they should at least provide parents, teachers, and staff legal recourse if any student or GDOE employee is injured or dies as a result of the unsafe conditions at schools.
Senators, waive sovereign immunity you, the governor, the superintendent of education, the school principals, the education board chairperson, and the director of public health enjoy. Allow parents, teachers, and GDOE staff members to sue you all in your personal capacities if anything bad happens at these schools without sanitary permits.
Put your money where your mouths are if you’re so sure Public Law 37-32 wasn’t a bad idea.