1. Curriculum and Student Achievement: ARCH, the DOE’s research and accountability division, found that only 20 percent of Hawaii’s public school students in one of Hawaii’s high schools with a top graduation rate were eligible for a BOE Diploma vs. a regular diploma. Hawaii’s community colleges find that 79 percent of Hawaii’s public school graduates need remediation in math, 52 percent in reading and 66 percent in writing. Do you favor the implementation of a sequential, quality, K-12 curriculum that would tie to the state’s standards and that would allow graduates to be college-ready?
The first step to addressing the problem found by ARCH would be to raise the state’s graduation standards for all students. Currently, for the high school diploma there is still no math-level requirement, only a certain number of credits. Students rise to expectations, so raising the bar is the first step.
The second step would be to implement a sequential, quality, K-12 curriculum tied to the state’s standards. However, a quality curriculum is only going to produce results if the teachers and principals wholeheartedly implement it. Thus, in choosing the curriculum, the teachers, principals, and superintendent of each school complex must collaborate to determine which curriculum would best reach the students they serve. It must be understood by the teachers that every grade level must work together and that the success of the high school students is tied to their preparation in the elementary and middle schools. Teachers must be trained in the new curriculum and given the vision for what an integral part each of them play in the overall goal, so that no step is neglected. At the end of the day, the best curriculum is only as effective as the teachers who use it.
2. Teacher and Principal Compensation: The American Federation of Teachers finds that Hawaii’s teacher starting compensation package equals $52,150, with an average of $72,682, with principals’ average compensation package at $147,000. Should teacher and principal salaries be based on seniority or performance and outcomes?
The best interests of the students should always be considered first and foremost. Tying salaries to performance and outcomes would give the teachers and principals a vested interest in ensuring the success of every student. Innovative, proven strategies to help every student succeed would be encouraged and stale, lackluster methodologies would be quickly abandoned. Nevertheless, under-performing employees who have invested many years in the school system would still be valued by providing them with ample tools and training to improve job performance. However, if these do not result in improved performance or outcomes, their positions should be reevaluated and/or reassigned to a more suitable grade, subject area, or school. At the same time, the disincentive of not receiving pay increases should also motivate the employees to change and adapt until the goals are met. The performance and outcome expectations should be set in conjunction with national standards, parental input, and the BOE. In addition, teachers and principals should be given adequate time and training before implementing deadlines for the commencement of these reforms.
3. Should principal performance contracts, as required under Act 51, passed in 2004, be required?
Principal performance contracts should be required because it gives principals a vested interest in ensuring the success of every student. Principals need vision to inspire their teachers and students to strive for success. At the same time, if principals are to be held accountable for student performance, they also need to be empowered to make all the decisions necessary to attain student success, including the hiring and retaining of staff, as well as the adoption of new curricula and/or methodology. In addition, just as the teachers are given the proper educational tools and information to enhance the quality of their performance, the same opportunities and resources should also be given to underperforming principals.
4. Per pupil expenditures: Hawai‘i was 13th highest among the 50 states in per-student expenditures in 2006-07: $11,060 versus a national average of $9,666. Last year, when all spending is included, Hawaii had a per-student annual spending of about $16,000. Should the Weighted Student Formula funding be increased from .49 on each dollar to ensure that more of the budget gets to schools and classrooms? Why are why not?
Yes, the Weighted Student Formula funding should be increased because more of the budget should be going to our schools and classrooms, and actually I think it should be higher, 0.70 on each dollar. To compete and prepare our students for the 21st Century, we need proper funding for adequate educational equipment (e.g., computers, current textbooks, science labs, textbooks for every student).
5. Staffing Formulas: Act 51 implemented a weighted student formula and requires principals spend 70 percent of the DOE operating budget, excluding debt service and capital expenditures. However, the BOE still negotiates labor agreements that include employee ratio formulas, preventing principals from making autonomous hiring decisions. Do you favor eliminating employee ratio formulas in union contracts to allow principals to make hiring decisions? Why or why not?
Yes, employee ratio formulas should be eliminated so that principals have the authority to hire the best qualified, passionate teachers who will contribute to the success of the students in their school. This must work in tandem with principal performance contracts
6. Reliable and Transparent Data: The State Auditor found that the DOE is unable to allocate costs properly and the DOE admits their information system needs replaced in order to provide the public, Legislature and department managers with data that will allow them to make timely decisions. What improvements would you make to get the following information to the public: (1) how much money is expended each year within the entire education system, (2) how much of that money is spent in the classroom.
The information system needs to be simplified so that entering information can be completed quickly. Secondly, the system needs to be accessible so that each school would be able to enter information monthly. Having a central system would standardize the reporting of information so that a computer could more easily generate a report so that the information could be made public.
7. Fiscal Autonomy : Should the Legislature would be required to provide lump-sum budgets to the DOE/BOE and the Governor could restrict spending, if at all, only on a lump-sum basis, to allow the DOE fiscal autonomy similar to the University of Hawai‘i? Likewise, should the BOE limit the use of categorical funding and instead provide lump-sum funding to schools or communities that may then choose to purchase centralized DOE or private services?
Allowing the DOE fiscal autonomy, especially providing lump-sum funding to schools or communities will empower the campuses. However, to ensure fiscal responsibility, the BOE should have categorical spending guidelines. Yet, the principal should be allowed to make decisions that override the guidelines as long as it is agreed upon by the Complex Superintendent or by the School/Community-Based Management system.
8. Procurement: In 2009, the State Auditor issued a report on the DOE’s procurement practices involving $840 million in facilities money and revealed potentially fraudulent or unethical behavior and a lack of controls and indifference towards procurement compliance. Do you favor implementing internal controls in this department, with corrective or disciplinary procedures for procurement violations? Would you begin by investigating why many schools do not have soap, paper towels and adequate toilet paper? Why or why not?
Internal controls with corrective or disciplinary procedures for procurement violations are necessary, just as much as investigating why many schools lack some necessities like soap, paper towels, or adequate toilet paper. However, these alone will not solve the problems with the DOE’s procurement practices. Fiscal accountability is required and if school principals were required to give an annual financial report to the community school council, made up of parents with children in the school, not just the BOE, this would encourage fiscal responsibility with the hard-earned taxpayer money, so that it would not be wasted and so that schools would be able to meet the basic needs of children with adequate supplies.
9. Decentralization or Community-Centered Schools: Given that communities in all other states have local control over their schools, do you favor a community-centered school system with control over 90 percent of their community k-12 school budget? Would you favor the BOE limiting itself to developing academic standards and holding accountable community-level school governance?
Yes, each community best understands its own particular needs and a community-centered school system would be more effective in meeting those same needs. In addition, limiting the BOE to developing statewide academic standards and holding community-level school governance accountable would be tasks perfectly suited for a state board of education.
10. Charter School Cap: Should the cap on the number of charter schools be lifted with student funding that is equal to other public schools, including money for facilities?
Yes, removing the cap and equally funding the charter schools, will adequately equip the them and give parents many options in the public schools. This, in turn, should spark an increased level of student achievement.
11. Pension Reform: Last year, $417 million of the DOE’s budget was consumed by pension or employee burden costs. Would you implement any pension reforms that would lessen these costs? If so, what would they be?
A pension reform would be changing the way contributions to the pension accounts are made, using the matching system. For example, if the DOE currently contributes 10% of an employee’s gross pay towards the pension fund, the percentage would be changed so that up to 6% of an employee’s gross pay would be matched in contributions to the pension fund. For the employee opting to contribute 6%, the result would be an increased amount contributed to his/her pension fund, a total of 12% instead of 10%, while at the same time giving the DOE a 4% savings. For the employee opting to contribute only 5%, the contribution to his/her pension fund would result in the same amount, but it would also give the DOE a 5% savings. This would result is lessening the DOE’s pension costs.