Reported spending increase irks DOE
Hawaii's leap in rank on the annual survey is called deceptive
An annual report that has bolstered past calls for more funding for Hawaii schools now shows the state pulling even with the national average on per-pupil spending.
Education Week magazine's 2006 survey of education spending ranked Hawaii 25th in the country, at $8,123 per pupil, based on figures from 2003, the most recent period for which data was available from all states.
Hawaii's per-pupil spending on education has climbed above the national average, according to Education Week magazine.
Note: Figures are based on 2003 spending and adjusted for regional cost differences.
|1. District of Columbia
|2. New Jersey
|3. New York
Source: Education Week's "Quality Counts 2006"
That number, adjusted for regional cost differences, moved Hawaii above the national average of $8,041. Hawaii was ranked 35th
last year and 40th the year before by Education Week.
Hawaii education officials cautioned against interpreting the new data as a sign that spending was nearing adequate levels.
DOE spokesman Greg Knudsen said Hawaii faces many challenges, including teacher salaries that rank at or near the lowest in the country when adjusted for the cost of living, making it hard to attract top-notch teaching recruits.
"There is never appropriate attention to the cost of living in these reports, and why it's so much harder for us to recruit," he said.
He said that while Hawaii's ranking is probably more or less correct, the $8,123 figure is "clearly inaccurate" and should be lower.
In a press release that also challenged Education Week's overall C+ grade for the quality of Hawaii's school system, the department noted that Education Week's cost-adjusted figure for Hawaii is actually higher than the base figure of $8,100, defying the conventional wisdom that the dollar does not go as far here.
The magazine's adjusted Hawaii figure has been higher in past years as well.
Knudsen said Hawaii's funding should be compared more with that of similarly high-cost states like New York and Vermont, where spending exceeded $10,000 per pupil in 2003, according to Education Week.
Two years ago the report figured in the political debate over the DOE's budget -- now at $2.1 billion -- when consultants hired by the Lingle administration announced a competing estimate that put Hawaii's spending much higher than Education Week.
That prompted accusations by the DOE that Lingle -- who was then pushing a drive to break the single statewide school district into several smaller units -- was attempting to inflate the spending numbers. Her consultants later acknowledged errors in their data.
Lingle's budget director, Georgina Kawamura, said yesterday the Education Week report "gives us a way to compare at the national level," but refused to draw any conclusions from the most recent data.
"Our review of (DOE) budget requests is based purely on the information we gather on what they expect to achieve with the money," Kawamura said.
Per-pupil spending has risen further in Hawaii since the 2003 data, driven by raises in teacher salaries and other increases.
The DOE puts the figure at $9,042.58 for 2004. Data for 2005 is due in a few weeks and is expected to be higher still.
But with other states increasing spending amid new federal mandates to raise student achievement, it remains to be seen whether Hawaii's growth is keeping pace nationally.
"It seems like every time we take a step forward, others take a step forward, also -- maybe two steps," Knudsen said.
Board of Education member Breene Harimoto* said numbers and rankings are unreliable indicators of whether funding is sufficient.
"We won't really know we have enough until we see student achievement take off, we resolve many of our facilities problems, eliminate our teacher shortage and have enough highly qualified teachers," he said.
Board member Paul Vierling, a Lingle appointee, said the problem is not the funding amounts, but that the DOE bureaucracy needs to surrender more control over spending to school principals.
He said recent legislation giving principals more control was "just a start" and that the state should go further by giving principals control over 90 percent of school-level spending.
"We've made a start but haven't gone nearly far enough or nearly fast enough," he said.
Hawaii tied for the top ranking on a measure of the percentage of a state's school districts that enjoy per-pupil spending at or above the national average.
Hawaii's perfect score of 100 was aided by its single statewide school district, in which funding is equally distributed. It tied with Delaware, Wyoming and the District of Columbia.
Saturday, January 7, 2005
» Randall Yee was elected chairman of the state Board of Education in December, replacing Breene Harimoto. A Page A1 article Thursday incorrectly identified Harimoto as chairman.