Isle school officials
dread budget cuts

Federal funding for Hawaii
schools is estimated to decline
1.7 percent in 2006

Officials worry that budget
cuts will end successful
and popular programs

President Bush's proposed budget would eliminate or scale back several funding programs currently used by Hawaii public schools and could further complicate state efforts to meet the demands of his No Child Left Behind Act.

Federal support
for programs pulled

President Bush's 2006 budget would eliminate federal funding for the following education programs in Hawaii, listed here with their 2005 budget allocation. Several other programs will have their funding reduced.

» Even Start early education program -- $1 million
» Curricula reform programs for low-income schools -- $669,000
» Education technology grants -- $2.4 million
» Anti-drug program grants -- $2.1 million
» Vocational training grants -- $5.8 million
» Gear Up college-preparation program -- $10.2 million (over five years)

Source: U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education estimates available federal funding for Hawaii elementary and secondary schools would decline 1.7 percent, to $178 million, under the 2006 federal budget.

That comes when school administrators are already complaining about a lack of funding to implement No Child Left Behind's academic progress mandates.

Bush has proposed more funding for schools in low-income areas, for students with special-education needs and for expanding No Child Left Behind at the high school level. But those increases have come at the expense of other important programs, says Katherine Kawaguchi, assistant superintendent of the state Department of Education.

"My concern is that here in Hawaii all schools need to meet the same targets as (low-income) schools, but the additional money for other schools isn't there. It doesn't exist," she said.

The budget eliminates Hawaii vocational education grants worth nearly $6 million and a $2.3 million grant program aimed at upgrading public-school computer systems.

It would also wipe out Gear Up, a $10.2 million, five-year federal grant program that prepares high school kids for college, and the $1 million Even Start early-education program.

"We're deeply concerned," said Shirley Daniel, principal investigator for Gear Up in Hawaii.

"There are only a few federal programs that support colleges and universities to reach out to K-12 students directly to help them prepare for higher education, and unfortunately, these programs are in jeopardy of being cut."

Congress could opt to protect the programs.

But merely restoring them at current levels would amount to a de facto funding cut when factoring in inflation and the growing challenge of meeting No Child Left Behind's rising test-score requirements, Kawaguchi said.

For example, funding for students with limited English skills has stayed constant the past four years, despite an increase in such students to 17,000 this year compared with 13,000 in 2001, Kawaguchi said.

An analysis of Bush's budget by the National Conference of State Legislatures said No Child Left Behind, "the administration's cornerstone education policy, ... fails to be adequately funded."

Funding would grow by less than $1 billion under the proposed budget, an increase of less than 0.2 percent of the K-12 budget in the United States and slower than inflation, it said.

The administration said the programs to be cut have served their purpose, but that opinion is not shared by Britney Kunihiro, a Gear Up student coordinator at Hilo High School.

The program advises students on curriculum choices that will increase their chances of college acceptance and helps parents strategize on college financing. It has about 300 participants at Hilo High alone.

"If it's eliminated, it will take away a lot of opportunity for kids now," she said. "It's made me aware of the different opportunities we have in going to college and in just getting a better education."

Kawaguchi said that by filling the college-counseling role at some schools, Gear Up has helped "tremendously" by freeing up other school resources for the instructional, test preparation and data collection demands of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The elimination of the computer technology funding will further crimp the state's ability to meet those demands because it was being used to upgrade computer networks so that they can handle the new data, she added.

State Department of Education
U.S. DOE: No Child Left Behind

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