BUSINESS groups said the government should implement any pay hike for public school teachers in phases in order to keep inflation contained and not hinder the government’s other spending priorities.

The joint statement was issued Wednesday by Action for Economic Reforms, the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, the Foundation for Economic Freedom, the Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Business for Education.

The groups said the government also has other important priorities to finance and backed a phased increase over time.

“Fiscal affordability and sustainability, and the competing demands for other essential public expenditures… include other parts of the education sector itself, the health sector, social spending such as Conditional Cash Transfer, and investments in hard infrastructure. All these are needed to lift our people out of poverty, broaden and enrich the middle where our school teachers belong,” they said.

“We, the undersigned business and professional organizations, believe that better education is a top national priority,” according to the statement, adding the sector plays a crucial role in making Filipinos “more competitive, secure and productive.”

“We recognize, appreciate, and value public school teachers as central to this goal, aside from being important leaders of our communities, including during election time. They deserve to be compensated better and given better training opportunities and tools, and we join other sectors in making that a goal,” they said.

The groups also said the government needs to ensure “fairness and equity of public school teachers’ pay compared to other civil servants,” considering the former had their pay increased recently.

The group quoted Education Secretary Leonor M. Briones as saying that public school teachers’ pay has “overtaken” pay at private schools.

In 2019, a public school teacher at the entry level salary grade of 11 earned 58% more than the equivalent private school teacher, while an associate professor at salary grade 23 earned more than double his or her private counterpart.

Citing the regional labor force survey, they said in 2016, public school teachers received on average 71% more than private school teachers nationally, with the gap ranging from 34% in the Cordillera Administrative Region to 158% in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Ms. Briones also disputed claims that public school educators are “the most pitiful and lowest paid profession,” according to the group.

“This is especially so in rural areas as the salary of public school teachers is standard nationwide. Compared to private school teachers’ pay which is determined by local cost of living in the area they are working,” they said.

An immediate pay increase would pose “heavy economic and social effects, such as inflation, low growth, and unemployment, that go with spending beyond our means.”

“This hits the poor hardest,” they said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte promised on campaign to raise the salaries of public school teachers. He renewed the promise earlier this month, noting that the government is studying how to source the funds. — Janina C. Lim