A WISE man once said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” I believe the importance of prioritizing education in our community is paramount to the success of our island for generations to come.
In 1995, after seeing the appropriations from the U.S. Congress for school construction dry up, I felt we needed to do something locally. I acted, and we passed the law that structured the first bond issue providing over $180 million to build five new schools, repair and reconstruct many others, including Inarajan and Ordot-Chalan Pågo elementary and the new buildings at the University of Guam. The law created the Territorial Educational Facilities Fund and earmarked all real estate taxes collected to pay the debt service on the bonds, with the remaining taxes to be used for the capital improvements and repairs of all existing educational facilities.
Over the past decade, we have seen many of our public school facilities deteriorate and become non-conducive to an adequate education, and we once again find ourselves needing over $100 million for all of the deferred repairs and maintenance.
We have supported the old adage of “education is our top priority” backed by actions, not by meaningless assurances, manipulative press releases, or empty promises; but rather with genuine movement toward a real investment in education. My actions have laid the foundation to truly empower the students, teachers and administrators of Guam toward this goal.
Action 1: Created the Adequate Education Act Trust Account safeguarding $60 million of ARRA funding dedicated to capital improvement projects to repair and renovate schools. The governor fought to control the use of this money for other government operations and we successfully defeated his efforts.
Action 2: Protected GDOE from the governor’s $20 million cut in FY2012 and passed a stand-alone GDOE FY2012 budget bill, the first this government has seen in years, which showcased the Guam Legislature’s prioritization of education.
Action 3: Saw the benefits of my Public Law 30-164 which created the Education Financial Supervisory Commission (EFSC) that promotes transparency and accountability in the financial condition of GDOE. The EFSC provides information and continues to alert government officials of negative financial statuses of GDOE.
Action 4: Authored Resolution 311-31 to provide $3.2 million to GDOE for the repair and renovation of the Untalan Middle School (UMS) campus. There were no concrete plans or funds identified to repair and renovate the UMS campus before, during, or after they were moved to the Tiyan facility. Resolution 311-31 should address these inadequacies.
Action 5: Introduced Bill 414-31, which provides over $73.6 million to GDOE for the renovation, repair, maintenance and reconstruction of public schools on Guam through the issuance of the second series of Business Privilege Tax bonds. This allows for the final borrowing capacity of the government of Guam to be used for the purpose of investing in our students through improving their learning environment, and truly shows prioritization of education by those elected officials who choose this path.
The next action is not one I am able to do alone. In the spirit of inafa’maolek, I will need my colleagues’ support from both sides of the aisle as well as the governor in order for these actions to bear any fruit. I will need the community's support for these goals to be achieved. I will need the students’, teachers’, and administrators’ support from GDOE so the proposed investment in our future can come to fruition.
It was a Ben, but a much wiser one who said: “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” With the support of everyone, our island will enjoy the benefits of interest above and beyond any interest that would have been paid through leaving $75 million in a bank account. We must invest and prioritize the face of Mr. Franklin on our dollars, in our future.”