“Laura Brown Image”

Despite dire predictions from Department of Education officials at a State House Finance Committee hearing this week, it is unlikely that the alleged lack of toilet paper and other shortfalls in public schools has anything to do with an impending $3 million reduction in the Department of Education’s $1.3 billion general fund allocation.

In fact, according to the DOE’s Financial Report for FY01-02, general/federal/special/trust fund appropriations totaled $1,673.5 million, an increase of $247.3 million or 17.3 percent from the previous year.

Increases in direct school spending and Comprehensive Student Support accounted for 98.5 percent of the general fund increase of $180.5 million. Federal grants also increased by $57.8 million for a total of $276.7 million.

Expenditures totaled $1.5 million — $254.2 million and 20.2 percent more than the previous year — leaving a $164 million unencumbered balance at the end of FY01-02. In layman’s terms, the DOE is rolling in dough.

”Per Pupil Costs Soar in 2001”

The ’99-’00 U.S. Census report showed Hawaii’s average per-pupil spending figure of $6,835. Hawaii ranked 25 out of 50 states in per-pupil expenditures that year.

In FY01-02, per pupil costs based on average enrollment soared to $7,626 or $8,167 based on average attendance. These figures do not include debt service costs or Adult Education expenditures under EDN 500. Adult Education costs — an expenditure that does not belong in a K-12 education budget, amounted to $9,498 million.

According to a table prepared and published by Columnist Cliff Slater based on Historical Statistics of Hawaii, K-12 education spending increased from $134 million in 1970 to over $1.3 billion for about the same number of students. See: http://www.lava.net/cslater/HEDSTATS.gif

Public education expenditures and personnel continue to increase while public school enrollment decreased from 182,767 to 182,612 last year.

”Heavy Support Staff Remains”

The Hawaii State Department of Education Directory lists over 2,650 central, district and school administrators. Alarmist testimony by the DOE stated that the department would be unable to fund even fully funded federal positions, but a summary of recommendations of the Department of Budget and Finance for the DOE fiscal biennium 2003-2005 adds 1,691 positions under EDN150 and eliminates only 2 state and district positions. Very few positions listed in the DOE personnel directory remain vacant.

”BOE Sets Budget Priority; Union Sets Agenda”

It is the Board of Education, not the governor, who is in charge of setting priorities for the DOE budget.

Unfortunately, it appears that unions unduly influence the Board’s priorities. The addition of thousands of “paraprofessionals” under the guise of “Felix,” now shifting to No Child Left Behind funding, has diluted the money available for increased teacher salaries. While the cost of education has exploded, teacher salaries have slipped ever backwards.

Volume 20 of the Government Union Review and Public Policy Digest entitled, “If Their Unions are So Powerful, Why are Teachers Not Better Paid?” discusses this phenomenon.

The DOE now has “specialists” to learn new teaching practices, develop curriculum and lesson plans, type and grade class work, involve parents and work with children as “instructional aides.” Principals have business managers and district resource personnel to take over their responsibilities.

The result is diluted quality and focus on the classroom and individual school budget. Therefore, the DOE has no one but themselves to blame for the current misappropriation of copious education funds.

”’Laura Brown is the education writer and a researcher for HawaiiReporter.com. She can be reached at:”’ mailto:Laurabrown@Hawaii.rr.com

Comments

comments