Question #1 – Curriculum and student achievement
The State of Hawaii will soon be adopting the National Standards, which are much more succinct. To address the issue of remediation in reading and writing, we need to be staunch advocate for high literacy – move beyond basic reading skills and encourage higher level thinking skills. Additionally, we need to promote familial literacy. This can be done by reaching out to parents while they are still expecting. We also need to provide additional supports for students with limited English proficiency. Most research indicates that it takes seven years to become fluent in a language, and we expect our children to be able to function in the classroom and on standardized tests almost immediately after arriving in our classrooms.
We also need to have only one diploma. There should be an ability to denote additional accomplishments on that diploma, much like earning a Magna or Summa Cum Laude on a college diploma. Having two different diplomas gives the appearance that there in an acceptance of lower standards.
Question #2 – Teacher and Principal We need to retain our experienced teachers by paying them adequately. We need to provide them with enough to live in Hawaii’s high cost environment and pay for their increasing health care costs. Rewarding teachers for performance outcomes should be part of a whole school bonus where the school shares in a financial “prize” when the school improves.
Because all are stakeholders in a school’s success, principals are just one element in the success. Financial compensation beyond their contracted pay should be their share of the school’s “bonus” for success. It DOES take a village to raise, and educate, a child.
Question #3 – Per pupil Expenditures
The weighted student formula is inherently flawed. It does not reflect the needs of small schools or very large schools. One formula does not fit all. We need to look at some other system of allocation other than the weighted student formula as it is presently being used.
Question #4 – Staffing Formulas
The labor contract with teachers has a student to teacher ratio. This ratio needs to be school based instead of system based because special programs with small student populations skew the ratio for other schools.
Question #5 – Reliable and Transparent Data
The Office of Personnel needs to use 21st Century technology to maintain adequate records. If they cannot do this, maybe the department needs to be terminated and replaced by a new department that can do accounting, or we might even need to contract a private provider to maintain records more efficiently.
Question #6 – Fiscal Autonomy
Comparing the University of Hawaii and the Department of Education is like comparing apples to oranges. UH is a revenue generating institution with clear start dates. Students preregister and very rarely start mid-semester. Public schools, on the other hand, do not charge for attendance and students can show up and enroll any time during the school year.
Categorical funding needs to be maintained for certain programs like Special Education and English Language Learners. Lump sum budgeting could harm these federally mandated programs.
Question #7 – Procurement
The efficiency of DAGS (Department of Accounting and General Services) needs to be independently reviewed. If schools are tied to using DAGS’, then DAGS needs to be more efficient with resources. The procurement process needs to be changed. DAGS should have to bid on projects like any other contract provider.
As for schools having no soap, paper towels or toilet paper, that has additional factors to be considered. Some schools have had to stop filling soap dispensers and refilling paper towels and toilet paper because the facilities are vandalized too frequently. Entire rolls of toilet paper shoved into toilets wastes not only the toilet paper, but makes that toilet unusable until a custodian (another resource) is able to fix the problem. If bathroom vandalism were to stop, then the rationing of bathroom supplies could possibly become a thing of the past. Maybe schools should actually enforce rules more consistently and give consequences for the misbehavior. That way, other students would not have to suffer for the actions of a few children who have no concept about how they should behave.
Question #8 – Decentralization or Community-Centered Schools
We have the pieces in place with the School Community Councils. They need to have more power to dictate the direction of the school in view of the needs of the community.
Question #9 – Charter School Cap
This would increase the overall state budget for education. If the state is willing to pay for it and the tax payers are able to “foot the bill,” then the cap should be lifted. Without additional funding, however, this may not be feasible.
Question #10 – Pension Reform
One way we can reform the system is to not allow double dipping. Some state employees retire, and then are brought back as contracted workers or as part-timers. They receive their retirement pay plus the new salary, which is the rate they were receiving when they retired.
We cannot take away pensions from teachers. They are public servants like police officers and fire fighters, but they serve your children. We can, however, put an end to double dipping.