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"In a perfect world, studies like this might provide some basis for more funding. But we can't provide anything of that magnitude."
State budget director
More school funds needed
A study by mainland consultants recommends an additional $278 million for the state's public schools (based on 2003-04 budget figures). It broke down the funding needs as follows:
Elementary schools: $159.0 million (up 20.3 percent)
Source: Grant Thornton LLP and University of Oregon Professor David Conley
It then isolated 150 categories of expenditure and how much additional funding was required to achieve adequacy.
"This study looks at where we are today and where current research says we should be and how to get there," said Nitin Bhatt, a senior manager with Grant Thornton.
The report's figures are based on the Department of Education's 2003-04 budget of $1.7 billion. It said per-student funding for that year came to $8,598 and the additional $278 million would have raised that figure to $10,119.
An annual study by Education Week magazine released earlier this month said Hawaii's per-student spending was $7,326 in 2001-02, putting the state in 35th place among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The national average was $7,734 that year, Education Week said.
The draft report was presented yesterday to the Board of Education, whose members said it provide further ammunition in the board's battle for more state funding.
"This is definitely something that validates what we've been saying, that schools need more money and that the system is not some huge bloated thing," said board member Karen Knudsen.
The board commissioned the study as part of its Fiscal Accountability Project, which aims to ensure school funds are well-spent and getting results. The board hopes to have a final version ready in time to submit to Legislature this session, which ends in May.
However, some board members noted that there is wide disagreement on what constitutes an "adequate" education and that the report could be picked apart by legislators.
The adequacy model was devised using a complex methodology based on hard data on the types of educational approaches that have proven most successful in raising student performance. But there are other methodologies that often reach differing conclusions.
"In a perfect world, studies like this might provide some basis for more funding," said state Budget Director Georgina Kawamura. "But we can't provide anything of that magnitude."
The report detailed how the additional funds could be spent, with most focused on elementary schools to build reading skills and mold attentive pupils.
"If you don't have an orderly classroom, you can't do any of the things you want to do," said co-author Conley, who is director of the University of Oregon's Center for Educational Policy Research.
For the middle school level, it suggests a focus on teaching students how to read and use textbooks, which Conley said is a new challenge that many students never master.
The huge enrollment in Hawaii's high schools, meanwhile, should be offset through small "learning communities" and by stressing teacher leadership training.
"This study not only tells us how much more to spend but provides us with a plan on how to spend it," Knudsen said.