“Laura Brown Image”

It looked impressive. It sounded impressive.

Several dozen people took the state Capitol by storm yesterday, rallying in hopes their protest and shouts could echo to the fifth floor of the state Capitol, into the governor’s office, and somehow convince her to spare the Hawaii Department of Education’s Adult Education Program from budget cuts of $2.7 million from the Department’s more than $6.87 million.

Chanters shouted convincingly “SOS, save our schools” and held bold handmade signs to reinforce their message.

But behind the scenes, there was a much more to the story of what was really motivating many of those at the rally — money and credit. And the mainstream media missed the story all together.

Teachers interviewed at the rally told HawaiiReporter.com that Adult Education administrators paid them to attend the rally with state funds.

Teachers were compensated at the same rate they are paid for instructional time.

Even more shocking — students incurred course credits for participating in this rally under the guise that it was a lesson in “civics and democracy.”

Not one local media reported on this fact, rather focused on the outpouring of emotion by protestors that to “save the people of Hawaii,” the poor, the sick, the tired, the elderly, the non-citizens — the governor must restore funding to the adult education program.

Not one media looked at the facts of the program and they failed to mention the program’s serious flaws revealed in the state auditor’s latest report.

The 2001 Department of Education budget lists around 35 permanent employees, 17 temporary employees and costs of nearly $10 million to operate the adult education program. Each of the 11 schools has a principal, vice-principal, registrar and school administrative services assistant and other staff. Teachers are contracted out on an hourly basis.

The way the program works: eligible students are categorized as those with no schooling or primary level only, students needing a GED, adults requiring basic reading and writing instruction or requesting basic homemaking or parenting skills. Other services include naturalization training, “civics” and cultural opportunities.

Supporters of adult education say programs are “self-supporting.”

However, that does not appear to be true. According to the Department of Education’s own figures, a special fund of $1 million is allocated to cover expenditures for all programs, and the program also receives over $1.5 million in federal funding in addition to the general fund appropriations.

Oddly, some teachers aren’t even paid from the Department of Education’s budget, rather from the Department of Public Housing’s budget, according to one teacher interviewed at the rally who admitted that is where his salary came from. And this is not accounted for in the figures above, meaning even more government money is subsidizing this adult education program.

State Auditor Marion Higa hasn’t exactly given the program rave reviews either. In fact, her last audit of the Adult Education program in February 2002 reported the program failed on many accounts. The program:

*Failed to disburse federal funds through a competitive grant process;

*Used a process that violated the Hawaii Public Procurement Code;

*Double-counted students; i.e. if a student attended 3 classes, that student was counted three times;

*Assessment activities were counted as courses;

*Single classes segmented and counted as several;

*Classification and compensation of principals and vice-principals based on artificially-based student enrollment;

*Administrative staff also received part-time, temporary teacher pay up to $124,000 each;

*Teachers listed as students in the same classes they were supposedly teaching;

*Student assessment is nearly non-existent.

The State Auditor recommended allowing the University of Hawaii’s community college system and Outreach College to take over the program, rather than allow the Department of Education to continue to oversee it.

Meanwhile, reports from federal agencies reviewing Hawaii’s Adult Education program reveal the above listed problems to be unresolved and basically ignored by the Department of Education.

It seems the governor, in her own way, believes the department waste and bureaucracy can and should be cut. And in some sense, by cutting the budget, she says a necessary move in tough economic times, her emphasis will continue to be on money and resources for children first, in public school, rather than for bureaucracy.

The governor must do what she can to ensure the money grab by unethical bureaucrats does not continue — something she can do by taking the state auditor’s advice, including moving the responsibility for operations of the program to the University of Hawaii.

”’Laura Brown is the education reporter and researcher for HawaiiReporter.com. She can be reached via email at:”’ Laurabrown@hawaii.rr.com

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