School board ducks tough decision with compromise
A Board of Education committee has approved a formula that caps decreases and increases in a school's funding at 10 percent.
A COMPROMISE engineered by a state Board of Education committee might be the only way to settle conflicts among members on a funding formula for public schools.
The action, however, comes at the expense of schools that deserve more money to educate their students and subverts goals the board had supported in a law that set up the funding method.
That the board could not find the backbone to make tough decisions gives fuel to Governor Lingle as she fires up her campaign to revamp the body that governs public education and the ways schools are allotted money.
Unable to reach agreement on the Department of Education's funding proposal, the board has dithered for months on approving the formula, which portions out money to schools based on student needs.
The formula would have resulted in some schools receiving less money -- in some cases, much less -- than in previous years, while others would see gains. The situation distressed some board members who represent districts that faced losses, and others who contended the department had not adequately addressed problems the smaller amounts might produce.
To soften the financial blow, a board committee decided to place a cap of 10 percent on each school's funding decrease for the first year, 25 percent in the second and 50 percent in the third. But because the cap also applies to increases, schools that need more money will take a hit. For example, a high school in the growing Kapolei community that would have seen a $1 million budget increase won't get but $100,000 more in 2006-2007.
The formula is a key component of the Reinventing Education Act that was supposed to give schools more control over spending and governance. The law was passed by Democratic lawmakers as a response, in part, to the Republican governor's plan to replace the statewide board with smaller units she felt would be more responsive.
Although Lingle's plan failed, she hasn't abandoned the issue. Seeking re-election next year, the governor says that though she will consider allotting more money for education, she won't sign a blank check and prefers linking funding with academic improvements.
Though she has yet to detail plans, the board should view her remarks as a warning for another battle ahead. Accountability should be sought not only in the classroom, but in governance as well.
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