Tuesday, February 5, 2002

BOE approves cuts
up to $36.2 million

The budget cuts may affect
the A+ program, computer
education and ESL teachers

By Rosemarie Bernardo

The state Board of Education approved further budget cuts for the next school year that target the A+ Afterschool Program, computer education and teachers of English as a second language.

"They (legislators) don't realize the impact of what those cuts will do," said BOE Chairman Herbert Watanabe.

"Cuts will wipe out some programs," he said.

The BOE voted to cut up to $36.2 million at a meeting yesterday at the Queen Liliuokalani Building.

Lawmakers from the House Committee on Finance and the Senate Committee on Ways and Means asked the state Department of Education to prepare budget reductions of 3 percent, 4 percent and 5 percent.

The budget reduction scenarios will be submitted to the Department of Budget and Finance.

The lump-sum budget for public schools remained untouched by board members who were in favor of giving schools the flexibility to support programs that were necessary, said state schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto.

If a school needed to purchase supplies or hire a computer or art teacher, each school would be able to shift funds in the lump-sum budget to acquire what is needed.

The BOE approved a reduction of up to $3.9 million from the A+ program. Both computer education classes and the English as a second language program may each suffer a $3.6 million cut.

Board member Carol Gabbard said the English for Second Language Learners program is significant and helps ethnic groups such as Micronesians improve their language skills.

"We'll be operating on a shoestring budget. ... It spreads us pretty thin," Hamamoto said.

Watanabe said "warm bodies may be affected" if further reductions are considered.

The proposals also reflected substantial cuts in the state library system. According to state Librarian Virginia Lowell, a 3 percent reduction would eliminate all bookmobiles statewide, cutting off services to remote areas of the islands.

A 4 percent reduction may cause the closure of a library branch and cut staffing by eight employees. Further job cuts and reduction in branch hours at existing libraries may occur at a 5 percent cut.

State Board of Education

E-mail to City Desk

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