Board of Education Candidate Survey: Valzey Freitas

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 think creating a preschool to college or career readiness alignment of curriculum would greatly benefit our public school students.


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?

Principals and teachers salaries should be based on performance standards and outcomes as well as seniority. Those who are effective at their jobs should deserve to be compensated for their achievements. Those who are not meeting performance standards should be sanctioned. Principal performance contracts should be required as they are responsible for the both the achievements accomplished and the challenges presented at their schools.

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?

The DOE’s weighted student formula provides sufficient funding per student. We need to give more financial control to our school complex areas to assure that the funding allocated is spent at the school and classroom level and not consumed by the bureaucracy of the DOE.

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 do feel that principals should have the authority to make hiring decisions. The success of their students and school relies upon them building a team of people that will work together toward achieving a common goal.

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?

First, I feel that control over financial and personnel decisions should be made at the school complex level and second I feel that the use of new technology systems should be implemented to account for school-complex based decision making.

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?

Comparing DOE to the University of Hawaii is like comparing apples and oranges. The DOE does not generate any revenue to support its activities the way the university does. However, I do support giving school complex areas fiscal autonomy over their spending via the allocation of lump sum funding to the complex areas.

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 would support a full reform the DOE’s procurement practices with very clear and enforced punitive consequences for violations.

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 support giving complex areas control and governance over lump sum budgets and feel that moving toward this type of decentralization would provide the flexibility needed to change and improve our public schools. It would also help to create manageable information and data systems to accurately report on fiscal, personnel and school performance. BOE should adopt one set of academic standards that are comparable to national standards and accountability for meeting those standards should be at the complex level as well as the school level. We should concentrate on unifying school systems from preschool and kindergarten to high school to college or career.

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, providing charter schools are allocated equitable funding and held to achieving the same academic standards and outcomes as any other public school, I feel the cap on the number of schools should be lifted. I am hopeful that the legislature will address this concern as many of the existing charters schools are operating with shoe string budgets. The students in charter schools are also the responsibility of the DOE and they should be funded equally.

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 believe there are other areas in the DOE’s budget that could be addressed to assure that our schools and not the bureaucracy of the system are receiving majority of the funds. I am not in favor of reducing pension or employee burden costs. I would however support a policy that limits retired DOE employee receiving pensions from double dipping and resuming work in the department.