Tuesday, February 5, 2002

Budget for charter
schools at $8.4 million

By Crystal Kua

Allocations to the 22 charter schools in operation for the current fiscal year is set at $8.4 million.

That's according to a report released yesterday by state Auditor Marion Higa, who by law is charged with determining how much state money is budgeted to charter schools.

But Higa, who reports to the state Legislature, questions whether her office should continue in its allocation-setting role, saying the responsibility should be done by the executive branch.

Higa, in her fourth year of setting the charter school allocation, said the Legislature prefers that her office perform that function, but she continues to see a potential conflict, especially if her office is called upon to audit a charter school.

Charter schools in Hawaii are publicly funded but are free from regulations except collective bargaining, health and safety, discrimination and federal policies. Schools are accountable for student performance and funding through a contract or charter with the Board of Education.

The auditor's office calculated each school's allocation by first determining how much it would cost to educate each student. The per-pupil expenditure came to $2,997, but that is less than the actual calculations of $3,286. Changes to the charter school law last year prohibit the allocation from exceeding the previous year's allocation, which was $2,997.

Charter schools are unhappy with the amounts they received. Some schools have filed lawsuits for redress, and others will lobby lawmakers this session for changes to the law.

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