Lingle aims to provide $12M more for charters


POSTED: Saturday, January 31, 2009

Gov. Linda Lingle wants to scrap a charter school funding formula that critics argue has not been followed, shortchanging Hawaii's alternative public schools for years.

She is proposing a bill to repeal the formula and give charter schools $12 million in each of the next fiscal years to account for a rise in students, on top of some $60 million a year that Lingle offered in her budget request to the Legislature.

Charter schools are seeking $74.1 million for the 2009-10 academic year.

Senate Bill 899 calls for a new funding method for charter schools to be launched in July 2011. It would set aside money to cover rent, lease, repair and maintenance of buildings as well as fringe benefit costs for charter school workers.

“;Right now they don't get facilities money, so they have to take it out of the funds that they get to educate students,”; said Lingle's senior policy adviser, Linda Smith. “;And that's why their per-student dollar amounts are lower than our traditional schools.”;

Maunalei Love, interim executive director of the Charter School Administrative Office, said she does not support Lingle's bill the way it is written, calling it “;ambiguous.”;

She claims charters have historically gotten less money than they deserve because the current formula has not been implemented correctly. It instructs the charter office to base its financial plan on the previous year's public schools budget submitted by the governor.

“;If the formula is followed, then it would be fine,”; she said. “;That is our stance.”;

Lingle's plan also would adjust the charter budget when enrollment increases.

Last spring, dozens of students unsuccessfully urged lawmakers for more money after charters experienced a nearly 11 percent enrollment growth when four new schools were approved.

At the time, state Sen. Rosalyn Baker, then-chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee, said she was surprised to learn the Charter School Review Panel had approved one of the new schools, Hawaii Technology Academy, as the budget was being finalized. She later said, “;We ought to rewrite the entire charter funding mechanism.”;

While the budget rose, the state's 31 charter schools were left with about $1,000 fewer dollars per student in the current academic year, officials contend. The $59.6 million appropriation for charters is about $12.3 million short of what officials had sought.

Charter school enrollment is 7,603, up from 6,657 students last academic year. Enrollment is projected to reach about 8,488 in the fall.

Senate Education Chairman Norman Sakamoto said he would hear Lingle's idea and another bill relating to charter funding to hopefully clarify the process by which the state allocates money to those schools.

“;We ought to come up with a formula that is transparent, that is fair, that is understandable and that is predictable so the charters will know what they can expect in the upcoming school year,”; said House Education Chairman Roy Takumi.