Board of Education Candidate Survey: Randall M.L. Yee

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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?
Yes, I do. I believe that is the only way that we can be sure that the curriculum is aligned when a student either transfers to a new school or moves from Elementary to Middle and then to High School.

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 believe there should be a combination where a reasonable salary is paid that is tied to the number of years, however, I believe bonuses and increased salary should be based on performance for those teachers that excel and also for teaching at low performing schools. I also believe that unless changed by law, the requirements of Act 51 should be followed as it applies to principal contracts.

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 believe that as much as possible should be added to WSF to provide maximum freedom for principals to effectuate change at their school. However, you must be careful as it is not as simple as assigning an amount. Much of that cost could be in the form of debt service, Federal funds, special ed funds, transportation, food, payroll and many other central services that a school may not be able to handle with the funds that are allocated.

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 disagree as I believe it is important to have uniformity statewide for employee ratio formulas so that there would be similar working conditions.

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?

I believe the information is available, however, clearly being able to present the information in ways that are relevant is critical. Upgrading their computer system is the only way that this can be accomplished.

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?

Yes I believe that there should be a lump sum budget and that the DOE be treated similar to UH. I am also in favor of limited categorical funds to only what is required by Federal or State law.

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?

Absolutely. I know the internal controls are there but if they are not being followed then that needs to be corrected and violations be punished as allowed by the civil service contracts. With respect to launching an investigation, when I was on the BOE we already did do that and basically the response was that under WSF it is up to each principal to decide how they allocate their funds so it is up to each school community council to demand of their principal.

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 do not favor this primarily because the value of a single school district is that it allows for easier statewide implementation of funds, policies, standards, negotiations of contracts and oversight. In addition it provides easier transferability of employees. If each community did their own plan I believe the results would be worse in the poorer school districts. However, I do agree that the BOE should limit their involvement and focus on academic standards and improving statewide accountability and streamlining.

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 currently sit on the charter school review panel and I am in favor of a higher cap but still limited to make sure that only quality public charter schools are opened. The issue of equal funding must be settled and hopefully the current task force will issue recommendations that the legislature will adopt.

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?

This is a very important issue and implementing changes to limit retirement and medical benefits for new employees is critical to not bankrupt our State. However you must view compensation as a total package meaning that if some is taking less pay currently because of the benefits then to be competitive may result in higher salaries.