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?
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?
Both seniority as well as performance and outcomes have merit. Hopefully, with seniority, performance and outcomes improve. For low-performing schools, there could be many contributing factors, some historical, not just poor teachers and/or principals. If salaries are based on test scores only, recruitment and retention of good teachers and principals at the low-performing schools may be a difficult, exasperating the problem. Perhaps there could be incentives for improving performance and outcomes.
Should principal performance contracts, as required under Act 51, passed in 2004, be required?
Yes, it’s the law unless repealed. Determining a fair way of implementing performance contracts seems complicated and warrants further discussion.
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?
Hypothetically, yes, if there are sufficient funds.
When financial resources are limited, there could be consequences (unintended or otherwise) such as the closing of small schools, and further reductions in force.
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?
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?
There appears to be a lot of information and data on the web available to the public. However, it may not be in user-friendly formats. It would be ideal if we had the financial resources to improve DOE’s information technology system, and to provide sufficient staff to respond in a timely manner on requests from the public.
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?
Yes, I support autonomy for the DOE. 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? Lump-sum funding to schools or communities is a good concept. There are assumptions that principals have the time, are fiscally savvy or have staff that are.
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?
Yes, as an accountant for many years, I definitely support strong internal controls. Each case, however, should be evaluated individually. Counseling may be in order especially for minor first-time errors. If there is a pervasive problem, policies and procedures may need to be updated, and employees may need to be re-trained perhaps from the top down. For continued disregard of the State’s Procurement Code, the ethics code, or internal DOE policies and procedures, further corrective or disciplinary action may be necessary. In rather extreme and unusual instances, termination from employment or criminal prosecution may be in order.
Would you begin by investigating why many schools do not have soap, paper towels and adequate toilet paper?
Not likely. An inadequate inventory of restroom supplies does not appear to be a procurement compliance or violations issue. It is possible that the custodians simply did not replenish the restroom supplies in a timely manner. If so, the custodians may need to be counseled to more frequently monitor the restrooms. Or perhaps it is a funding issue. If there is a shortage of funds for such necessities, it could be a health matter unless the students bring their own restroom supplies. I think this issue should be directed to and addressed by the school level first, and if there is no action or response, the matter may be forwarded to the district office, followed by the state office, etc.
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? Control is shifting towards a community-centered school system. Would you favor the BOE limiting itself to developing academic standards and holding accountable community-level school governance?
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?
Yes, subject to the availability of funds during these tough economic times.
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? There is already an existing contract with the current employees. We can discuss reducing benefits for new hires. The dilemma then could become attracting and recruiting teachers, possibly resulting in a teacher shortage.