Tuesday, January 11, 2000

LeMahieu: Schools need
additional $31.2 million

By Crystal Kua


The state Department of Education wants less constraints and more authority to manage its own affairs, including setting up a system to hold the school system accountable when standards are met or missed.

"Authority and accountability must be pursued hand in hand," state Schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu told the House Finance Committee yesterday. "Accountability without authority is unreasonable but authority without accountability is irresponsible."

The department presented its $31.2 million supplemental budget request to lawmakers, which the department lowered from $39 million because of lower enrollment projections.

The budget request is for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, the second half of the legislative biennium.

While the governor's executive budget adopted $14 million of the department's supplemental request, LeMahieu asked lawmakers to fund the entire amount.

The department's supplemental request covers compliance with special education and other mandates; staffing and equipping new schools and school facilities; critical staffing for existing schools; continuing programs that received funding for only the current fiscal year; continuing the implementation of the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards; and developing a standards-based assessment and accountability program.

"What we bring to you today is no wish list. In fact it falls well short of the system's legitimate critical needs at this time," LeMahieu said.

The request includes $9.9 million for items related to the federal consent decree covering special needs students; $4 million for school staffing and operating costs; $5.3 million for new facilities; and $3.7 million to develop a standards-based testing system.

LeMahieu told lawmakers it's critical that an accountability system with clear expectations be established at this stage of standards implementation.

Such a system would look at collective as well as individual responsibility when it comes to doling out rewards, assistance and punishments.

"The DOE's educational accountability system will be focused on assuring success rather than identifying failure," LeMahieu said.

Equally important, LeMahieu said, is for the department this session to seek fiscal and administrative authorities it currently doesn't have.

LeMahieu said state lawmakers will hear more about authority and accountability issues this session.

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