Tax Church-run schools? Bishops say it’s govt’s call but…
MANILA– It is the government’s prerogative if it wants to impose tax on religious schools but the move should be studied thoroughly, Catholic bishops said.
Bishop Pablo David of Kalookan said that the Church would probably not be running schools if only the government could “adequately” provide quality education, especially on the primary and secondary levels.
“The fact is, it cannot,” David said. “We always thought that we in the Church were doing the government a favor by making quality education available wherever the state is unable to do it adequately.”
This failure, he said, is visible in public schools where many students are cramped in classrooms and the huge backlog in the construction of classrooms and the need for more teachers.
He added that even the government’s resources are still not enough to provide decent education to all its citizens.
“We merely augment the lack when the government cannot adequately provide it,” David said. “We do not even rely on public funds to run our schools.”
“Should they not treat us as their partners and allies rather than as adversaries?” he said.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who once called the bishops as “a bunch of hypocrites”, yesterday said church-owned schools should be taxed to improve the government’s revenue collection.
At the hearing on the Duterte administration’s tax reform bill, he called for a revisit of the government’s income tax policy, claiming that some schools cater to students from higher-income families and hike tuition.
The bishops and various church organizations have been strongly vocal against the extrajudicial killings as a result of the government’s war on drugs and the revival of the death penalty.
San Jose Bishop Roberto Mallari, chairman of the CBCP Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education, asked lawmakers to “get to know more” the Catholic schools and its contributions to society.
“In fact, government should even think of supporting them to maximize the good that they can do,” Mallari said.
David warned that some Catholic schools are even closing because of lack of resources and the escalating salaries of teachers.
He added that many Catholic schools have been suffering because of the exodus of teachers to the public schools where they can get a better pay and the the declining population brought by “free education”.
“Pretty soon we may have to close down some of them,” David said.
And contrary to public perception, the bishop said that public schools are not entirely free because they are run with taxpayers’ money.
“That’s not a bad thing in itself. We’re of course happy when public education is upgraded for the benefit of the poor but let’s not have any illusion about it. It is not free! It is paid for by the public tax payers!” he said.
And we merely augment the lack when the government cannot adequately provide it,” he also said.
No gov’t subsidy
Explaining the tuition costs in some Church-run and top universities, he said that the budget per student at the University of the Philippines is close to that of the Ateneo de Manila University or the De La Salle University.
The only difference, he said, is that the parents of DLSU or Ateneo students pay the bill for their children’s education. On the other hand, it is the taxpayers who foot much of the bill for students in state universities.
He stressed that parents who send their children to Church-run schools are also taxpayers but they don’t rely on public education even if they have every right to do so.
“Because, rightly or wrongly, they believe that their children would get better education in the private Church-run schools,” said David.
“To be able to give quality education, our schools have to charge reasonably. Do they have a choice?” he also said.
He added that Catholic schools also do not get the same subsidies that public schools are getting, except some partial assistance from the Education department for senior high school students that cannot be absorbed in public schools.
“I think we can run schools that cater mainly to the poor if we get full subsidies from the government,” David pointed out. “Without such subsidies, how else can we give quality education if not by charging tuition fees that could adequately finance school operations?”
Nevertheless, he said, the Church still runs schools for the poor financed by foundations.
“Ask about scholarship grants given by Catholic schools to poor but deserving students through foundations put up by their alumni, you’ll be surprised,” David said. CBCPNews