Schools await
needed funds

Despite a positive economic
forecast, the Lingle administration
has not released money to finance
a law that she had vetoed

Money to boost parental involvement in Hawaii's public schools and upgrade technology to track student performance has not been released by the Lingle administration despite an upbeat economic forecast last month.

The school system is short $4.6 million budgeted for the fiscal year that started July 1. That represents more than a third of the $11 million allotted in the Reinventing Education Act, which became law after legislators overrode Gov. Linda Lingle's veto.

Board of Education members expressed frustration yesterday after Budget and Finance Director Georgina Kawamura said she still hadn't decided whether to release the money. The Council on Revenues, which advises the state on projected tax revenues, last month predicted a sharp increase in revenues.

"It was my understanding that the funds were not released because the administration was waiting for the Council on Revenue projections," said Board Chairman Breene Harimoto. "Now you say you want to wait and see. How long do we have to wait?"

Added board member Shannon Ajifu: "Unemployment is down, businesses are upbeat. Everybody seems to be optimistic -- except for your office."

Kawamura said that she wouldn't approve the new spending until she felt comfortable that the council's Sept. 9 projections for increased tax revenues were rooted in reality and that the expenditures are justified.

"They are definitely projections," Kawamura said. "I have to be confident that they will be credible. I take my job very seriously."

Still waiting

Public school money, $4.65 million total, not yet released by the governor:

Technology to track student data: $2 million

Parent Community Networking Centers: $1.74 million

Full-time Student Activity Coordinators: $460,000

Parent-support programs: $100,000

Two-tier kindergarten: $100,000

Grants to nonprofits not yet released:

Read To Me International: $100,000

Frank De Lima Student Enrichment: $100,000

Hawaii High School Athletic Association: $50,000

She said the department also needed to show "clear results that you expect and how you expect to measure those results" before obtaining the new funding, which would then become part of the school system's base budget and keep recurring in future years.

Still under review is more than $1.74 million that would go to create Parent Community Networking Centers at the 69 campuses that don't already have them. The effort is based on research that shows parental involvement boosts student achievement, school officials said.

"Getting parents involved has been a huge push for us this year," said Principal Catherine Payne of Farrington High School. "That's one of the things high schools are weakest at. There's parental involvement at the elementary level, but it tapers off as students get older."

She said her school hasn't had a parent facilitator in the past, but is proceeding under the assumption that the money will be released soon to hire one. "It's that important," she said.

Another $2 million was budgeted for computer systems to electronically track student achievement and other data, but has not yet been released. That would help schools target improvement efforts and meet federal requirements, according to Superintendent Pat Hamamoto.

"I don't think I can overstress how important the technology is to implementing the Reinventing Education Act," she said.

House Education Chair Rep. Roy Takumi (D, Pearl City-Pacific Palisades), who helped write the law, said he was interested to hear that "the governor depends on Budget and Finance to determine which programs lead to better student achievement."

"The justification is in the legislative process," he said. "It was all fully debated for months, there were hearings, the administration took part."

Also not yet released are $460,000 to ensure that all high schools have full-time, 12-month student activities coordinators, an effort that was championed by the Hawaii State Student Council.

Another $100,000 allotted under a separate bill, which was signed by the governor, would help prepare for a planned shift to a two-tiered kindergarten, but has not yet been released.

Also still under review are grants to nonprofit groups: $100,000 for Read To Me International; $100,000 for Frank De Lima Student Enrichment; and $50,000 for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, for state sports tournaments.

"We are just hopeful the administration will see the value in the work that we do, as they have supported us in the past," said Lynne Waihee, who volunteers as president of Read to Me International, which works with students and teachers.

State Department of Education



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