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School board opposes governor's budget plan


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POSTED: Friday, April 03, 2009

A top aide for Gov. Linda Lingle tried to sell the administration's plan to divert federal stimulus money away from schools, but Board of Education members were not buying it.

;[Preview]    Lingle's policy adviser faces off with BOE
  ;[Preview]
 

They are battling over millions of dollars in Federal stimulus money.

Watch ]

 

At a board meeting last night, the governor's senior policy advisor Linda Smith explained Lingle's plan to take $90 million from the state's general fund intended for education to balance the budget gap.

The governor would replace the funds with $90 million in promised federal stimulus education money.

Smith defended the plan as legal. “;There's nothing that leads us to believe that the approach that we're proposing for Hawaii isn't in keeping with what's permissible under the federal law,”; she said.

Board members were skeptical.

“;This is … not the intent of the law,”; said member Donna Ikeda who criticized the plan for simply moving the money around while not increasing education funding.

“;Really, what we become is a pass-through,”; Ikeda said. “;You're taking it from one hand and getting it from the (federal government) in the other.”;

Members also mentioned comments from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan who last week warned states against diverting stimulus money intended for education, or else risk losing future stimulus money.

Hawaii will receive about 67 percent of the federal funds in May. The rest of the money is scheduled to be allotted later this year.

To receive the rest of the money, the state has to show prog ress toward four benchmarks. Board member Kim Coco Iwa moto questioned how the board was to meet the benchmarks if the state was not adding funding.

The state Department of Education is expected to receive about $113 million in initial stimulus funding, with the University of Hawaii getting about $44 million. In anticipation of that funding, Lingle's plan would withhold the $113 million — $90 million for this fiscal year and the rest for fiscal 2010 — from the state's contribution to the DOE budget and replace the money once the stimulus money arrived.

In all, Hawaii is expected to get about $274 million in stimulus funds for education.

About $117 million of that money will go to the Department of Education — $82 million for disadvantaged schools and disabled students and $35 million that the governor can use at her discretion. Smith told the board that this federal money would still go to the schools, allowing for the restoration of proposed cuts in fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

Chairman Garrett Togu chi said Smith's presentation did not convince him of the benefits of the governor's plan.

“;It reduces our ability to improve education as much as the act was intended,”; he said.

The board has no power to stop the governor's plan.