Phase-in of cuts to schools approved
The state Board of Education will vote on the plan to soften the blow
Hana High and Elementary School faces a $984,753 cut next school year under a controversial school funding formula.
But a state Board of Education ad-hoc committee approved a reprieve yesterday, capping cuts at 10 percent for the first year of a four-year phase-in of cuts for 137 public schools.
At 10 percent, Hana High's cut drops to about $98,475.
"It will give us some breathing room and time to make adjustments," said Principal Rick Paul. "It won't be like we will have to totally dismantle."
The committee forwarded to the Board of Education a so-called weighted student formula that bases funding on students considered more costly to educate, such as the poor, learning disabled and students still learning English.
The formula would cut some schools' budgets by hundreds of thousands of dollars while increasing the budgets of other schools by more than $1 million.
The committee approved a plan that limits the impact to 10 percent the first year, 25 percent the second, 50 percent the third and full implementation in the fourth year. The school board is expected to vote on the proposal Thursday.
"Some people had some very extreme concerns, so I think (the phase-in) was a good compromise," said school board Chairman Breene Harimoto, who also chairs the ad hoc committee.
Harimoto said the committee voted to limit the impact next year to 10 percent to ease the schools' way into meeting cuts.
Harimoto said the board needs to act soon to comply with state education reform laws approved by the state Legislature last year. They can review and change the formula every year, he said. Some members said they believe the formula is flawed.
Hana High's Paul believes he should be able to meet the first-year cut by eliminating positions that are vacant because there are no qualified people in Hana to fill them. He anticipates cutting one of two vice principals and one of two counselors for the school's 392 students in the second year. But he said meeting the cuts in years three and four will be difficult because of Hana's isolation.
"If I give a pink slip to a teacher and they live in Hana, where do they go?" he said.
The cuts will affect Hana's economy because the school is the community's second-largest employer after Hotel Hana-Maui, Paul said. And he is worried whether he will have enough money to meet state graduation and federal No Child Left Behind requirements.
Kapolei High School stands to realize a $1 million budget increase, but at 10 percent the increase drops to $100,000.
Principal Alvin Nagasako said Kapolei was rated as the most under-funded school in the state according to the committee that developed the formula.
"Just to break even we needed 11 percent," he said.
Nagasako said his school can use the extra money to reduce class sizes, help disadvantaged and special-education students perform better, and replace outdated computer software. But he is worried about what the formula will do to schools facing deep cuts.
"We really got to take care of the losing schools," he said.