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Better education, quality of life emphasized in territorial address

By Therese Hart SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Feb. 2, 2012) – Gov. Eddie Calvo used his State of the Island Address on Tuesday to lay out a vision for economic growth and educational opportunities for all to achieve the "Guamanian Dream."

In his second address to the people, Calvo said poverty has become a grim reality that thousands of Guamanians live with every day.

Calvo shared stories about walking the poor streets of Guam and meeting children and their families who live in poverty every day.

Calvo stressed that his vision for the future would ensure everybody gets a fair share of economic success and that all residents will be given the opportunity to fulfill their dreams.

In his address, the governor also called for more attention to education, citing the dismal state of the island’s education but also praising every educator from all the schools and giving them credit for the hard work and personal sacrifices they make every day to bring resources to their classrooms.

The answer for Guam’s economic success into the future, Calvo stressed, is education.

Calvo also outlined his plan to steer the government of Guam to fiscal responsibility by transitioning into performance-based budgeting.

"In the future, agencies will be funded based on their performance," Calvo said, promising his administration will hold every agency director, manager and supervisor accountable.

[PIR editor’s note: Calvo also announced his intentions to trim Guam's budget for 2013 based on expectations of lower revenues. Calvo’s administration predicted a $569 million purse would be available from the General Fund, but also projected an $11.2 million decrease from last year in the current budget. Additional concerns have also been raised about the Department of Education’s budget, which Calvo has put at $215 million, which falls $57 million short of the Department’s 2013 request.]

Great strides

Calvo also addressed the great strides the University of Guam and Guam Community College have achieved, thanking Drs. Robert Underwood and Mary Okada for taking the helm of the educational institutions and moving them forward, ensuring the continued success of future generations of students.

Calvo’s speech came in the midst of an escalating tension between his Republican administration and the Democratic majority at the Legislature.

Calvo thanked the five Republican senators for their advice and ideas. On the Democrat side, the governor also acknowledged Democratic Sens. Adolpho Palacios, Judi Guthertz, Tina Muna-Barnes, Dennis Rodriguez and Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz.

Calvo also shared he will create an executive-level task force that will explore financing ideas to renovate and rebuild existing schools and construct new ones.

The governor announced he will sign an executive order to impanel the Guam First Commission, giving credit to Guthertz’s compromise.

Calvo was critical of the Guam Federation of Teachers, and he urged the Guam Education Board to change the union’s contract. Calvo stressed that since a contract no longer exists, he would like to propose a solution to teachers.

"Now that the contract is out of the way, I’d like to make a deal directly with principals and teachers. If you take on the duties of cleaning your own classrooms with your students...supervise children in the hallways on a rotational basis...and make sure kids are safe in the cafeteria, the playground and on their arrival and departure from school ... in return, your pay will increase collectively by the amount saved within your budget.

It will be funded by the reduction of expenses for janitorial and supervisory services that will no longer be needed."

To the school board members, the governor said, "Change it and I will support you 100 percent of the way. Get rid of the current contract that only vests power in a select few union bosses who care little to nothing for the future of Guam’s children. Give the power over education back to those who care most about the students: the parents, the teachers, the principals, and the Department of Education."

Calvo also urged the Legislature to support legislation which will propose the Series B bonds that will pay for income taxes.

The underlying message of the governor’s speech was that the Calvo administration is transparent, fiscally responsible, visionary, and that the proposals he has outlined should be supported.

Most of the speech was colored by applause from Calvo’s Cabinet members who filled the seats in the session hall and in the public hearing room.

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