House leaders push bill on new school year

June 3 ------ Leaders of the House of Representatives are optimistic that the bill seeking to empower President Duterte to set a different date for the start of the school year nationwide or in selected areas under a state of emergency will finally hurdle the plenary before Congress’ sine die adjournment this week. Deputy Speaker and Sorsogon 1st district Rep. Evelina Escudero, and House Higher and Technical Education Committee Chair and Baguio lone district Rep. Mark Go anticipated the final approval of House Bill No. 6895 or the proposed “Amending the School Calendar Act.”

The bill aims to meet the urgent and reasonable need to protect the health and overall well-being of students. “We will try [to approve the bill] this week before the break,” Escudero said in a text message, even as she thanked her colleagues for passing on second reading the measure on Monday night. Escudero led the technical working group that consolidated the nine measures amending Section 3 of Republic Act No. 7797 or “An Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from Two Hundred (200) Days to Not More Than Two Hundred Twenty (220) Class Days.”

The TWG panel approved the substitute bill last Saturday and immediately presented it to the House Committee on Basic Education and Culture, chaired by Pasig City lone district Rep. Roman Romulo, and the Go panel for their consideration and panel. The two committees on the same day jointly approved the measure. For his part, Go said, “If we extend our session, we can have this approved on Thursday.”

When asked if he would push for an extension of the plenary session to pass the bill, “I think our session will be extended until Thursday as there are other important bills that need to be approved.” The Senate already approved on third and final reading Senate Bill No. 1541, which was adopted by the House joint panel. “In the event of a declaration of a state of emergency or state of calamity, the President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Education may set a different date for the start of the school year in the country or parts thereof,” it provides.

At present, R.A. 7797 mandates that classes should open between the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August. HB 6895 mandates the deferment by the President of the start of a school year during a state of emergency or calamity shall apply to all basic education schools, including foreign or international schools.