Board of Education Candidate Survey: Melanie Bailey

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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?

Absolutely, I don’t believe every teacher should have to reinvent the wheel and the cost savings will be substantial. I am pleased to see the RTTT application adopts a common statewide curriculum which will provide continuity from school to school, teacher to teacher. The standard curriculum should facilitate teaching, teachers should not be spending hours preparing study guides, homework assignments and tests. With that though, I think teachers should have room to teach in their own style to compliment the standard curriculum.


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?

I think paying teachers based on seniority is acceptable as long as deemed “effective” based on an annual system of evaluation.
I support principal performance contracts and pay based on their scope of responsible and performance. Clearly a principal with more students and a greater challenged student body should be compensated higher than a principal in a small school with a less challenging student body. We also need to reward not only reaching goals but also reward improvement. We should not classify a school that is improving annually “failing”.

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 would like us to continue to increase the percentage of spending that is going into the Weighted Student Formula and the allocation amounts be reevaluated annually. We want Principals to be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the school with the ability to make decisions on staffing, maintenance needs and special projects. This can only happen if they are given a budget to work with and do not have to continually request approval from the Department Of Education. National statistics appear to indicate that the DOE has been provided sufficient funding per student expenditures. Our challenge is to ensure that more funding is reaching the school level and not consumed by the bureaucracy.

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 would need to see the employee ratio formulas and hear the justification for them to comment. That being said, I am in support of giving principals decision making abilities for their school, including employment decisions. They must be able to build their own team and then be accountable for them.

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 complexity and size of the Department of Education makes it difficult to fully comprehend the multiple audits already being done. Much of this data regarding money expended each year and in classrooms is already available. The budget is unbelievable complicated (over 600 pages) and does not need to be so cumbersome, it should be simplified. We need to continue to work on interpretive analysis that can be understood by all, this will help bring back public trust.

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?

I have no strong opinion on this topic. I support eliminating layers of bureaucracy but with the size of the Department of Education budget believe there should be some stipulation on how the money is allocated.

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?

This is absolutely an area of concern. There have been many objections voiced about the procedures mandated by the Department of Education regarding procurement of materials and labor. The system needs to be transparent and cost effective. I would support reform.

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?

I am neutral on this subject. I see the advantages of both systems. Community school boards face many of the same challenges our current system faces. My goal would be to continue to streamline our current system. Less decision makers, less layers, more alignment with what is happening across the country that is successful. I do favor increasing the weighted school formula for principal and school level control.

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?

Charter schools are a whole project that we quickly need to get our hands around. Autonomy is great, but the end product needs to be graduates that are college or career ready. They are being managed very successfully on the mainland and could be a very positive step for Hawaii. I love the idea of charter schools promoting Hawaiian culture, specializing in English as a second language, smaller middle and high schools, art based schools. As far as funding, it should be equitable to other schools.

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 would need more of an understanding of the numbers involved. I like to look at wages and benefits as a whole. Pensions are a part of an employee’s compensation; it is just being deferred, which is a huge benefit to an employee. When comparing salaries state by state, we also need to compare total compensation (pensions and benefits) side by side.