STATE OF THE STATE
Lingle asks $18 million for charter schools
Gov. Linda Lingle wants the state Legislature to approve $17.9 million in additional funding for the state's 27 charter schools and establish a separate charter school district so they can apply for even more federal money.
In her State of the State address, she also called on lawmakers to lift the current cap on new charter schools to allow the establishment of seven more schools with a focus on environmental education.
Advocates have long complained of inadequate funding for charter schools, which are more autonomous than regular public schools.
Lingle said the increased funding would help lift per-pupil charter school spending in line with funding at the state's 285 traditional schools.
"Charter schools are an important adjunct to the traditional DOE schools. This important option for parents, students and teachers has never received fair and equal funding, and we should change that this session," Lingle said yesterday.
Jim Shon, executive director of Hawaii's Charter School Administrative Office, said Lingle's proposal for a charter school district could help with landing federal grants. "But as for how much money is out there, and how competitive we'd be, that remains to be seen," he said.
Some of the $17.9 million proposed by Lingle could go toward helping the seven new environmentally focused schools get off the ground, she said. The schools would be sited on all the major islands, with two on the Big Island.
"It is increasingly important that future generations have an understanding of the (environmental) issues and the choices we will face in the years ahead," she said.
House Education Chairman Roy Takumi said he is open to lifting the cap on new charters but feels the state should focus first on addressing the management problems plaguing some existing charter schools.
He suggested instead identifying schools that might need to be closed, which would free room under the cap.
"These schools were meant to be experimental -- some have been successes, some have been failures," said Takumi (D, Pearl City-Pacific Palisades).
He also questioned whether the governor had something up her sleeve with the environmental schools idea.