Board of Education Candidate Survey: Kathy Bryant-Hunter

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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?

I support the DOE 5 year Strategic Plan and the Race to the Top initiatives.  I would support those efforts even if the application is not successful.  I also believe in creating a culture of success in our system.  I want all students to graduate knowing they can be successful in work or college.  The BOE needs to articulate that vision and work in concert with DOE, the Governor, and the legislature to realize this vision. 


Recently, the BOE adopted the Common Core Standards (CCS) which over time will lead to a common curriculum.  In addition to supporting the CCS, I would support schools that implement rigorous college prep programs, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.  As a BOE member, I would ask DOE why more schools aren’t implementing these challenging programs, what are the obstacles, and how do we overcome them.  Also, several High Schools, but again not all, have school to work programs that are closely aligned with community college programs to facilitate the transition to college.  Again, I would ask why more High Schools do not have quality school to work programs, closely aligned with community colleges or trade programs, that continue to prepare students for college or career.

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? Should principal performance contracts, as required under Act 51, passed in 2004, be required?

Student achievement is the goal.  Quality teachers and Principals are critical to meeting high achievement outcomes.  One of the Race to the Top initiatives is teacher assessment plans to be included in the next contract negotiated in 2011.  This is an important step in supporting teachers and improving student achievement.  Recognizing quality teachers and learning from their success, as well as developing better training and mentoring methods for new or weaker teachers will result in better student outcomes.  Act 51 requires principal performance contracts and they should be implemented.  

3.  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?

I favor a “bottom up” system which stresses reform at the classroom level.  Principals should have control over as much of the school budget as possible.  Principals need and should receive sufficient training to be excellent CFOs.  That said there are some economies of scale that make sense at the complex or statewide level.  Transportation and food service are examples. 

4.  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?

I support collective bargaining, but do believe that employee ratio formulas are too prescriptive.  Principals need flexibility to hire staff that meets the needs of their student population.

5.  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, (3) how many people work for the DOE and what positions do they hold, and (4) how many of those employees are classroom teachers who report to a principal?

The DOE is the state’s largest “business” and as such should be held to high level of transparency and accountability.  It is also a complex, and in many areas, an antiquated system.  Act 51 consolidated many of the functions under DOE, but clearly more needs to be done to build confidence among the taxpayers.  For example, the DOE hired a consultant to craft a plan to “unscramble” the financial system ($50 million estimate) but the legislature did not fund it.  One of the challenges is that these types of information system reforms are costly, and the pressure is on DOE to push resources to the classroom.   As a BOE member, I would favor using CIP funds to underwrite some of these information system reforms since they are a long term project and don’t take resources from the classrooms.

6.  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?

Act 51 does give DOE fiscal autonomy-but schools still have categorical funding (i.e. peer education program, Lahainaluna boarding school).  Categorical funding is often the result of legislative action supporting certain programs.  I would have to learn more about the BOE role in limiting categorical funding or the lump sum option.  I like the option of purchasing central DOE services or private services because I think it is more cost effective and could provide more options for schools.

7.  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?

The DOE should have internal controls that oversee procurement and when violations are proven, then corrective action should be taken.  I would certainly want a report from DOE on how the procurement issues have been addressed, and what, if any, corrective actions have been taken.  I’m not sure where I would begin, but basic needs is a good place to start.  I would also add, that at the school level, if the custodial staff or Principal has not allocated sufficient funds for basic hygiene needs, then in addition to examining the procurement issue, I would advocate that schools are working with their parents, parent groups, SCCs, and community partners to immediately find resources for these needs.  Students shouldn’t lack basic needs, while adults sort through a procurement audit.

8.  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?     

Act 51 states that  70% of the budget should be controlled at the school level.  The BOE should continually look to increase that percentage.  As mentioned earlier, there are economies of scale like transportation & food service, that make sense at a central level.  The SCCs created under Act 51 are also intended to strengthen school based governance.  Some schools have implemented SCCs more effectively then others.   More attention should be paid to how effective the SCCs are in school governance.

The primary function of the BOE as defined by statute is to “establish goals and priorities for the development and implementation of the department’s program and financial plans” and to “provide policy direction and review for the development of the department’s proposed sections of the State strategic plans.”  The BOE should focus on their mandate.   

9.  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?

I supported the law passed by the legislature to increase the number of Charter Schools. I also support the rules that are under review to establish methods for Charter School accountability including reporting methods, closure processes for underperforming schools, etc. 

The Charter Schools, like the State Libraries are under the BOE, but separate from DOE and not under the authority of the Superintendent.  Charter Schools seek funds directly from the legislature for operation and CIP.  Charter School rules are crafted by the Charter School Panel.  This difference is important and not many people in the public understand the separation of the three entities. 

For me, Charter School operational funding is more complicated.   Charter Schools are generally more expensive to operate because the student population is generally smaller than a DOE school. Classroom sizes are smaller, but labor costs remain the same.  Under a weighted student formula, a Charter School would receive less total money because their student population is low, but they still have the same labor costs.   Because they do not fall under DOE, they are responsible for transportation, food service, and other services that would otherwise be centralized, making them more expensive to operate.   The trade off is that the schools have more autonomy in their educational methodology and the opportunity to raise funds from outside sources.  Facilities funding is a different issue.  Conversion schools that have existing facilities should receive equal funding, and the effort by DOE to find facilities for Charter Schools should be endorsed.

10.  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?

I don’t know enough about the pension system to answer this question.  I do think that employee pensions are a statewide issue and that there needs to a broader discussion that includes DOE.   As a BOE member I would ask these questions, and find the staff that work on the pension system, listen to their reform ideas, and work with them.





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