Officials say that a planned
budget will not meet the needs
of special education
MAKAWAO, Maui » Schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto said she is worried that Gov. Linda Lingle's proposed budget for the next two fiscal years will shortchange special education by more than 200 teachers.
Speaking at a state Board of Education meeting last night, Hamamoto said the move would put the Department of Education at risk of failing to comply with federal disabilities law and the Felix consent decree, a federal court mandate to improve services for special-needs children.
She said the governor's budget for fiscal 2006, which begins July 1, and fiscal 2007 would fund 200 fewer special-education teacher positions than the Department of Education expects to need during those two years. Hamamoto said the department has 2,041 special-education teachers and estimates it will need 2,117 next year.
Linda Smith, senior policy adviser for the Lingle administration, said she was not aware of Hamamoto's criticism and that the final budget will be presented to the state Legislature on Dec. 22.
"The budget has not yet been finalized. That final number will be shared with the Legislature," said Smith, who was not at the board meeting.
She said Lingle continues to recognize the need for an adequate number of teachers in the public and charter school systems.
Hamamoto said the department is planning further discussions with the state Office of Budget and Finance regarding cuts in special-education teachers.
She made her statements while discussing the board's upcoming proposed budget, which also will be submitted to the Legislature.
Education Department officials told board members that according to Lingle's proposed budget, the department will see large increases in certain costs, including 24 percent for pensions, 36 percent for health insurance and 136 percent in debt service for school construction.
Board member Karen Knudsen said the state health staff in charge of caring for autistic children was transferred to the Education Department a couple of years ago but with insufficient funding for it.
Knudsen said that the state should consider transferring the staff out of the department if there continues to be no support for it.