Plan reallocates schools’ funding
The Weighted Student Formula would gain some $6.1 million
Students in most Hawaii public high schools would each be funded by about $130 more next academic year under a proposal moving through the Board of Education.
The extra money would come from some $6.1 million currently set aside for specific programs at some high schools that would be instead lumped into a formula that distributes funds based on enrollment and student needs. It includes nearly $3 million for athletic directors and almost $1.5 million for a pregnant teen/parenting program.
The school board's Budget Committee voted 6-2 yesterday to send the proposal to the full board, which meets tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Queen Liliuokalani Building to consider the plan.
The proposal would add the $6.1 million into the so-called Weighted Student Formula, which currently channels about $900 million to schools, and bring the per-pupil funding at high schools to an estimated $4,243. It is expected that 31 of the state's 46 high schools would benefit.
Initially, a committee of educators charged with revising the formula had sought to increase it by more than $22 million with money from state and complex areas, but the Education Department opposed the suggestion because of recent budget cuts and the state's bleak economic outlook.
The weighted formula took effect in the 2006-07 school year with the goal of giving schools flexibility over spending and providing more money to needy students.
Schools with more students considered more costly to educate - such as poor or special-education students and non-native English speakers - receive more money at the expense of schools that have fewer of those students. But concerns that some schools, especially smaller and rural campuses, would suffer drastic losses led the school board in 2005 to decide to phase in the formula over four years. To ease the transition, the Legislature has allocated an extra $20 million annually as a funding cushion.
The school board revised the formula last year to include a "sliding scale" to ensure small schools can at least cover the basic expenses. The scale kicks in when enrollment sinks below 650 at elementary schools, 850 at middle schools and 1,600 students at high schools.
However, the proposed new formula would have those thresholds drop to 500 students at the elementary level, 600 at middle schools and 1,000 for high schools because of concern that medium-sized schools were losing out, said Robert Campbell, director of the Education Department's Office of Program Support and Development.
"The sliding scale protects small schools, gives a little bit more money to the big schools and the guys in the middle are pretty much carrying the load," he said.