1. CURRICULUM AND STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT.
Two issues come to mind. The 20% receiving the BOE graduation is in line with the national statistics that around 25% of high school graduates complete college. Hawai’i should be better on advanced graduates and our statistics should also include the private school students. The concern needs to be how all students in Hawai’i are doing.
Also, students need to be prepared for vocational as well as college based careers. They have to truly look at purpose and planning by students for their future.
The second issue is our lack of remediation. We have testing programs that have highlighted the lack of remediation, but funding and staffing of remedial programs has not matched the needs. The teachers know that a number of students need the skilled help in remediation, but putting in the staffing increases classsize in the general classroom.
As to having a standards and performance based curriculum, that is what DOE has been putting their resources toward for the last 10 years. The structure is there and the requirements are there. What is missing is the performance and the emphasis on individual students rather than dealing with school and state mass statistics.
We have many stars doing well, but this needs to be expanded to all the students.
2. TEACHER AND PRINCIPAL COMPENSATION
We worked hard to get the beginning salary up to a competetive level for Hawai’i. We are in competition with the other states and other professions. We still need to compensate both financially and professionally to keep people in the profession and in Hawai’i. Until we can count on a long term commitment, the curricular issues and other programs will lack consistency and strength. We can’t keep changing staff.
Working from a good base salary, teachers should have opportunities to increase they earning power without leaving teaching and becoming administrators. Extra work, innovative work, superior work should be rewarded. This can be done by individuals as well as schools, departments, grade levels. The cost will easily be worth the increase in stability and innovation. School is much more than testing, just as the real world is. Using test scores is a very unreliable way of evaluating education and teachers. They are important, but not the most important values that make a good education.
Principals are evaluated by their SCC each year and the evaluations are given to the district superintendents. How these scores are utilized is an issue worth looking in to. The quality of the principal is the main factor in the success of the school.
3. PER PUPIL EXPENDITURE
I currently serve on the SCC for a DOE school and on the nonprofit board of a public charter school. Those numbers have little to do with the reality of money coming to either school for operations. It is imperative that decision making be at the local level( by school) and therefore, the funding needs to be at the decision making site. At least 85% of the monies need to be passed down to the schools. Student Weighted Funding is one way of creating transparency in the system at the same time maintaining equity in funding. Hawai’i has always had the most equitable funding for schools, because of the centralized system. It now needs to trust the local schools with their share of the funding as it does with the education of the children. The local schools can do it through their SCCs and their charter school local boards.
4. STAFFING FORMULAS
The staffing ratios are an important safeguard in the contract. Principals have the ability to do their own hiring and to place people where they want/need them. There are procedures that will allow principals to readjust positions. Total autonomy disregarding employee rights is not called autonomy. When I first started teaching, the neighboring district had financial problems. This was before collective bargaining. The superintendent fired all teachers with 20 or more years experience and replaced them with teachers with 2 years of college. This balanced the budget, but destroyed the programs and quality.
5. RELIABLE AND TRANSPARENT DATA
When we started the process for the charter school law, I explored having a complete audit of DOE. Found out that in 1999 it would require a minimum of $100,000 for an accounting firm to begin it. Not fit in our budget.
When we were we were setting up a school based budgeting in a DOE school, I discovered that the system could not tell me how money was spent the previous year. Checked with our senator and with the new auditor and that was true. Hope that has changed by now.
In a district on the mainland, I asked to finance person for a copy of the district budget(1970). He said it is too complicated for regular people to understand, so is not available. When I became union president later, the budget was given to us and evaluated by our budget committee prior to bargaining. Times can change.
The budget is a working document that allows an organization to function. It is not a static property that is kept as bookkeeping records, but a living accounting record. If the system does not work, it may not be the system, but how it is implemented. Data is to be used, not just stored. It can be made to provide whatever is needed on an immediate and timely basis.
Parts 3 and 4 refer to personnel issues with a different computer system. That system has a history of being ineffective in providing and processing data. The system should be useful and connected to the financial system.
6. FISCAL AUTONOMY
If education is a state priority as expressed every election year, then the funding needs to be removed from the political process. Extentions of funding can be done politically.
Lump sum funding must be at the school level where the educational decisions are made. A minimum of 85% of the education budget should be done at that level. Look at charter school funding as a model to build from. They purchase services.
Relating to the business part of public education, there must be regular supervision and transparency for all business decisions. By moving many of these decisions to the school does not guarantee propriety. Monitoring and transparency should rule, but not paranoia. It is the responsibility of the DOE, BOE, and local SCC to continually investigate. However, we don’t need a situation of leadership investigation as in the strawberry incident with Captain Queeg in the CAINE MUTINY.
8. DECENTRALIZATION OF COMMUNITY-CENTERED SCHOOLS
Be cautious about referring to the local control on the mainland. Local control of schools is accomplished with property taxes, which people in Hawai’i would not like and also very inequitable because of the differences in property values/income in various districts.
However, we can have local control of most of education and still maintain our state model for funding and monitoring.
I favor 90% local control and providing equitable funding to the charter schools.
9. CHARTER SCHOOL CAP
As one of the founders of the charter school law and of a charter school, I feel that charter schools need better treatment by the state. Yes, we need to support the facility cost for those charters not using existing public schools. Those expenditures can go into the educational programs at each school once to rent burden is lifted.
10. PENSION REFORM
I am a retired teacher and president of the Maui HSTA-R. I current represent about 450 retirees. Pensions are not a burden, but a responsibility. In Hawai’i there has been a standard negotiation practice when times were financially rough for the state to provide pension benefit improvements in place of larger salary improvements. These were legal promises.
The state has brought back a pension model in which the employee contributes. The is a good fiscal decision. Because of our pension system, teachers are willing to stay longer with the hope of benefits after they retire, such as medical. Any cost savings can be made by more prudent investments(growth) rather than reducing current or future benefits.