Board of Education Candidate Survey: Roberta Phillips Mayor

article top

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 favor the implementation of a sequential, quality, K-12 curriculum, aligned with the state standards, that would prepare students for college and careers.

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?


Both bases for salaries may be appropriate. Teacher and principal salaries based on seniority provide a strong incentive for retaining experienced educators in the profession as a long-term career. Awards for outstanding performance and/or improved student outcomes might be considered in addition to regular compensation. How to determine outstanding performance would be a challenge, however. Performance contracts should be part of the regular evaluation process for principals.

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?

A review of the department’s total expenditures needs to occur before determining whether the weighted student formula needs to be increased. Many student services may be more efficiently supported and provided by the central office, not the school. Allotting additional funds to the school sites may not ensure that the funds are used as intended, or that student instruction is enhanced.

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?
Employee ratio formulas are no longer a factor for WSF positions at the schools. Principals require more latitude in hiring decisions to match appropriate qualified staff with the specific needs of their students. Principals need the authority to remove staff who are not suited or not qualified to work with children.

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?

Reliable data is absolutely necessary to allow an organization as large as the DOE to operate effectively, and is essential for good decision-making by the BOE and DOE administrators. Determining how the current DOE data system functions, and its capabilities, would be a first step. All fiscal information within the DOE should be accessible to the public. Answers to all of the personnel and fiscal questions asked above should be made available, as well as what it costs to operate each individual school, and central office department.

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?

Lump-sum budgets allow the BOE and schools greater flexibility to use funds where student needs are greatest. Categorical funds should be limited, as the emphasis with the use of restricted funds is often on compliance with the restrictions rather than on instructional improvement. If restrictions or reductions are placed on the DOE budget by the governor, the DOE/BOE should be allowed to make the internal decisions about where the cuts need to occur to cause the least disruption and harm to students.

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?

I absolutely support implementing internal controls in procurement, and in other DOE departments, and would urge immediate corrective and/or disciplinary action when violations are discovered. Every school bathroom should be adequately stocked with soap, paper towels and toilet paper.

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?

Other states do not have “community control” over their schools, and it is impossible to hold the “community governance structure” accountable for the failure of a school. What is in place in most states is a community collaborative in which parents, teachers and the administration work together to determine how the discretionary dollars that are allotted to a school are best used to improve the instruction and learning conditions for children. The bulk of school funds are used to provide the instructional and support staff, and the textbooks and supplies needed to support the
instructional process. Decisions about the limited funds remaining are made after the stakeholders consider the benefits of various options.

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?

Before lifting the cap on the number of charter schools, charter schools need to be periodically evaluated to determine if they are providing quality services to students as intended. Effective charter schools should be continued and ineffective charter schools should be closed. If charter schools are operating more effectively, then more charters should be established, or more regular schools should be considered for conversion. However, it should be recognized that increasing the number of charter schools increases the total number of schools in the state serving the same number of students, thus leaving fewer dollars per school.

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?

Pension reform may be necessary in the future, as retirees live longer, and as health premiums continue to increase. However, before proposing any pension reform, I would need to understand the DOE’s current obligations. The $417 million may be a legitimate expenditure paid to retired DOE employees. Paying for post-retirement benefits is a challenge for every governmental organization, and any benefit from an enacted reform would take considerable time to appear, as reforms would likely affect future new employees, not current employees or retirees. Unfortunately, pension expenditures will continue to increase before any relief can be instituted.





Comments are closed.