Drug testing of teachers still in limbo as governor battles DOE over funding
What ever happened to the dispute between Gov. Linda Lingle and the state Board of Education over funds to test public school teachers for drugs next academic year?
Answer: It remains unclear where the more than $500,000 to pay for random and reasonable-suspicion drug tests of teachers will come from and whether the program will be able to start by a June 30 deadline set in a new contract.
The Education Department had sought $523,723 from the Legislature to hire five workers and buy computer equipment for the testing, but Lingle turned down the request and lawmakers have not included funding for the program, education officials said yesterday.
The school board, which voted in January to reject the tests unless given extra funds, is unlikely to revisit the issue, especially since the Education Department's budget is being cut by about $10 million, board Chairwoman Donna Ikeda said.
"As far as drug testing goes, it isn't even in our radar," she said. "First priority is the classroom, and we are struggling right now to get enough funds down to that level."
The Education Department would need approval from the school board to shift funds from other programs toward drug tests, spokeswoman Sandy Goya said.
Lingle contends the Education Department has enough money in its $2 billion-plus budget to cover annual drug tests of as many as 3,250 teachers, or one in four employees. Lingle has said the state "cannot effectuate" the contract if the drug tests are not carried out.
Lingle spokesman Russell Pang said he could not immediately say yesterday whether teacher pay raises in the contract would be withheld if the drug tests fall through.
This update was written by Star-Bulletin reporter Alexandre Da Silva.
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