By Eric Rosario
Sen. Jim Moylan is asking the governor to use CARES Act funding her administration received to buy laptops and tablets for students who don't have access to technology for online learning. He also wants their families to have data internet access.
"I would like to humbly request for your administration's consideration in creating a program where tablets and/or laptops can be purchased along with data plans for those families who are facing financial constraints and who have children who would need access to such technology for educational purposes," Mr. Moylan wrote in a letter to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero. "The monies from the CARES Act can be utilized to fund this program, which can even assist the Guam Department of Education in eventually reducing their expenses by converting the need to purchase certain textbooks and replacing them instead with soft copies of the material."
Ms. Leon Guerrero received two pots of federal money that can be used for purchasing or leasing these devices and providing internet for kids. The first is a grant she received specifically for education, and the second is direct aid funding for the government of Guam.
Mr. Moylan's request comes at a time, when both the administration and the budget chairman - Sen. Joe San Agustin - have proposed severely underfunding the Department of Education by $100 million. DOE has said it needs more than $300 million just to meet its mandates, while Ms. Leon Guerrero and Mr. San Agustin have reserved only $209 million in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget for the agency.
"This is a terrible situation," education board member Mark Mendiola said with the caveat that he is not speaking for the entire board. "We told the senators that we need the average of 3 past years budget for “maintenance of effort” to access more federal funds. We often get called for Roundtable after Roundtable and we explain but it seems like no one is really listening. They spring this on the department that has been planning for months and has a great track record of being fiscally responsible (7 clean audits) Our leaders need to find solutions and offer meaningful support to the basic fundamental operation of government (healthcare, education and public safety). We need to have the tools necessary to access the federal funds otherwise we are hurting ourselves more than just the local cuts."