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Oct. 19, 2007 by boo

Funding Our Public Schools

The Honolulu Advertiser is reporting that the State Board of Education voted to implement a new "sliding scale" formula to allocate funds for public schools beginning next school year. The news reports the percentage of dollars to be lost or gained per school. A more accurate measure is to report how much money each school currently receives, and will receive, PER CHILD it services. While this new formula seeks to minimize financial loss to smaller schools, it also minimizes the financial gain to larger schools.

Years ago, the Legislature mandated that monies for Hawaii Public Schools be distributed based on student population and student need, rather than equally to each school. The intent and purpose was to ensure that the educational needs of each child were met by funding based on each child's need. Thus, schools with more children would get more money because they had more children to service. Also, schools with more disadvantaged families would get more money because these children had more basic needs that needed to be met (lunch, social services, etc.) And, schools with more special needs children would get more monies because these services require more specialized staff (special education, english as second language, etc.). It wasn't long before people realized that the smaller schools (with less student population, disadvantaged, and special needs) would stand to lose a large portion of their budgets.

The Board of Education's new "sliding scale" formula addresses the needs of smaller schools, but not the needs of the larger student population they are entrusted to educate. A true "Per Student" formula would result in a significant loss of funding to smaller schools. In an age where there are reported teacher shortages around the State, and increasing needs for repair of school buildings and facilities, one option not being discussed is closing some of the smaller schools. Because school populations are based on the number of children in each school district, less students means there is less of a need for the smaller schools to exist. Keep in mind, the terms smaller and larger are used based on student population, not size or number of buildings. Closing some of the smaller schools would result in re-distributing the administrative and teaching staff, meeting the needs of current and future vacancies. Closing some of the smaller schools would result in allowing a true "Per Student" formula to be implemented, providing the funding for each child in each school as intended. Closing some of the smaller schools would result in money saved from building maintenance and repair, allowing more money to be spread around each school. While it means losing an emotional bond in the community, and longer commute times for some, it would allow public tax dollars to be spent more efficiently and effectively.

Another option which should be reviewed is re-drawing the school district lines to "even-out" the student populations for each school. Re-drawing the school district lines would result in moving some of the student population from over-crowded schools into schools with more than adequate room to take on new students. This would allow each community to keep their existing schools, and allow each child and school to receive adequate funding under a true "Per Student" formula.

By approving and implementing the new "sliding scale" formula, the Board of Education may dodge a political bullet, but they also miss the target on adequately meeting the educational needs for the larger population of Hawaii's school children.

What do you think?


Comments

"Our DOE Hawaii still have a lot of room for growth. I agree with your observation and opinion."

Posted by Lizas Eyeview on Oct. 28, 2007

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