Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (June 9) – Once again, federal funding to the Guam Public School System is at risk. The federal Department of Education recently sent a letter via e-mail to Gov. Felix Camacho, Guam Education Policy Board Chairman Johnny Rivera and Luis Reyes, acting superintendent of the school system that said federal grants won't be made until the Government of Guam can prove the school system has management stability and has made a commitment to comply with grant requirements.

According to the governor's office, that could mean the loss of US$37.5 million in federal money, including about US$20 million for the special education program. That's a lot of money and means this isn't a matter to take lightly. And yet Rivera seems blasé about the letter.

"In my opinion, I think we have done everything we can to appease U.S. Department of Education," Rivera said.

Does the school board chairman have an alternate source to replace the endangered US$37.5 million? If not, he shouldn't be so cavalier about U.S. Department of Education concerns. Has he forgotten that not so many years ago, there was no Department of Defense Education Activity school system? It came into being because government of Guam leadership ignored federal educational requirements.

The focus must be on working with the federal government to resolve any issues it has with the school system or the board. The main goal is educating public school students, and that will become much harder to do without federal assistance. Education leaders and elected officials need to find out exactly what they must do to satisfy U.S. Department of Education and then get it done.

Our elected officials need to back up their often-spoken mantra that education is a priority. Instead of just saying it, they need to show it. They must remember this isn't about them and their political power games -- it's about the education of Guam's schoolchildren and our future.

The U.S. Department of Education letter has also shown that we need to find a way to get the governor to have some degree of say in and accountability for the school system. When the federal government has issues with Guam's public school system, it addresses those concerns, at least in part, to the Government of Guam, and the governor is the head of the government. The Guam public school system is still an executive branch agency, and thus the person running the executive branch must have some level of accountability for and involvement within the school system.

June 9, 2006

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