26 February 2007

NPM, a Sanggunian appearance and my essay

EARLY this morning, I addressed the Sangguniang Panlungsod to explain the 2007 Budget of the Naga City School Board, which Councilor and Education Committee chair Mila Raquid-Arroyo asked to be included in the agenda for its weekly regular meeting.

I have attended council meetings in the past, but this one was different: given the floor, I had to field questions coming from the councilors themselves. A question from Kgd. John Bongat created an opening for me to test the feasibility of applying New Public Management (NPM) principles in education reform.

Kagawad Bongat asked whether it is possible for the city to secure more permanent teacher items from the national government so we can generate savings from the 93 locally-funded items allocated in the budget and use it for other priority activities.

Using data from the DepEd, I said Naga is a low-priority division because of its relatively smaller class size precisely made possible by the Board's investments on these local hires. So the best bet for these locally-funded teachers would be to eye the natural vacancies arising from retired or vacated items. It is at this point where I tried to introduce the NPM concept of using performance-based contracts (which is what we are currently doing but on a limited scale) that would pay public school teachers much higher salaries, but will require doing away with security of tenure that characterizes traditional civil service.

Expectedly, everyone resisted the idea. Vice Mayor Gabby Bordado said it is truly "controversial" -- which is how I exactly described it -- but not feasible. This short but memorable episode shows just how formidable a challenge this particularly NPM strategy faces in the Philippines. By national standards, ours is already a progressive Sanggunian; how much more a Philippine Congress that is getting more and more conservative with every passing election since 1988, and a Senate that has lost its sheen as training ground for future Philippine presidents?

By the way, my NPM essay -- an enhanced version of what I submitted to the seminar facilitators last Saturday night, but still a work in progress -- is available here. I will develop some of its themes in future posts, and your feedback, always appreciated, should be able to enhance it.