Hawaii doles out $9,876 per student
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Hawaii spent more money in 2006 than in 2005 to educate public school students, according to a study ranking the state 16th in the nation in per-pupil spending.
A U.S. Census Bureau report says Hawaii spent $9,876 per student in the fiscal year 2006, or $738 above the national average.
State spending on teacher pay and benefits that year reached $5,893 per pupil. But the president of the teacher's union says the incentives don't match Hawaii's high living costs.
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Hawaii spent $9,876 per public school student in fiscal year 2006, ranking 16th among states in an annual U.S. Census Bureau survey.
Per-pupil spending at isle schools was $738 above the $9,138 national average, according to figures released yesterday. New York led the ranking with $14,884 and Utah came in last at $5,437.
Here is how states ranked on per-student spending in public schools in 2005-06:
1) New York, $14,884
2) New Jersey, $14,630
3) District of Columbia, $13,446
16) Hawaii, $9,876
49) Arizona, $6,472
50) Idaho, $6,440
51) Utah, $5,437
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Hawaii climbed three spots as its education budget rose to $2.7 billion in fiscal 2006 from $2.27 billion. The state ranked 19th in the previous year's ranking (for fiscal 2005), with $8,997 for each student compared with the national average of $8,701.
Most of the money, $2.4 billion, came from the state, followed by $225 million in federal funds and almost $50 million from local sources, it shows.
Education Department spokeswoman Sandy Goya said she would reserve comment on the report because officials had some questions about some of its data. For example, the department lists its current operating budget at $2.34 billion, which is lower than Census figures from two years ago, she said.
Some state lawmakers, noting Hawaii's education budget has steadily risen while enrollment has dropped, have called for an audit of the Education Department, arguing taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being used.
There are 178,369 students enrolled in the public system, down from a peak of more than 189,000 a decade ago.
Education officials, however, contend much of the money they receive each year pays for services previously managed by other state agencies until recently, including student transportation, school health aides, and employee benefits.
Also, the Felix consent decree, which resulted from a 1993 lawsuit filed on behalf of special-needs student Jennifer Felix and others, has led to more than $400 million in additional spending, according to the Education Department.
Meanwhile, spending on teacher pay and benefits reached $5,893 per pupil, ranking Hawaii 15th in that category, up one place from the last Census report.
Despite the incentives, Hawaii struggles to attract highly qualified teachers to fill about 1,500 vacancies each year because of the state's high living costs, said Roger Takabayashi, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.
Starting pay in Hawaii for a teacher with a master's degree is $44,817, up from $39,625 in July 2005, he said.
"It's a competitive market," Takabayashi said. "It doesn't give us leverage in recruiting and retaining."