State moves up in per-student spending


POSTED: Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hawaii public schools moved up two spots nationally in state spending per pupil in fiscal 2007.

The U.S. Census Bureau said Hawaii spent $11,060 per student, compared with top-spending New York, with $15,981, and bottom-paying Utah, with $5,683.

The state increased its spending per pupil in public elementary and secondary schools from $9,876 in fiscal 2006 (16th place), rising to 14th among states and the District of Columbia.

Spending per pupil in Hawaii was $1,394 above the $9,666 national average.

Teachers' salaries and benefits per pupil moved up one spot to 14th and totaled $6,517 in Hawaii in fiscal 2007, higher than $5,893 the prior year, the Census Bureau said yesterday.

State education accounting director Edwin Koyama said the department appreciated moving up in ranking but was also aware that economic conditions have worsened since the census study two years ago.

“;As we move to 2009-10, the status may change due to economic cutbacks,”; Koyama said.

He said the department was still reviewing the census data.

Hawaii's spending increased to $2.98 billion, up from $2.7 billion in fiscal 2006 and $2.27 billion in fiscal 2005.

The bulk of the revenues, $2.68 billion, came from the state, along with $256 million in federal funds and $47.8 million from local sources, the bureau said.

Meanwhile, student enrollment continued to decline in fiscal 2007, with about 179,230 students, down from its peak of about 189,280 in 1997.

State education spokeswoman Sandra Goya said the enrollment decrease parallels a drop overall in school-age children statewide.

New York spent $11,042 in teacher salaries and benefits per pupil, more than 69 percent higher than Hawaii.

Hawaii's $6,517 in teacher salaries and benefits per pupil was higher than the national average of $5,867 and higher than 35 states and the District of Columbia.

The state teachers union said the per-pupil teaching salaries and benefits listed in the census fail to account for the high cost of living in Hawaii, which actually puts Hawaii near the bottom nationally.

“;The lack of purchasing power makes it hard for us to compete with other states for highly qualified teachers,”; said Wil Okabe, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. “;It is a big reason why Hawaii has a chronic problem with teacher shortages, which varies from year to year.”;

The starting pay in Hawaii for a teacher with a master's degree is $46,609, up from $44,817 last year.