Public schools allocated transition funds

Kaua‘i public schools no longer face budget cuts next school year due to the $20 million additional allocation by the recently adjourned Hawai‘i Legislature.

The anticipated budget cuts were a result of the new Weighted Student Formula legislated through Act 51, the Reinventing Education Act of 2004. The legislature provided the appropriations as “foundational funding to ease the transition” to the WSF. The $20 million will be distributed uniformly based on school level — elementary, middle, high school, and combination school.

Waimea Canyon School, a combination school, was slated to lose $70,952. With the foundational funding of $105,476 for combination schools, Waimea will now see an increase of $34,524 in their budget.

High schools received an additional $126,580; middle schools, $84,350; elementary schools, $63,300.

Complex Area Superintendent Daniel Hamada said he wants Kaua‘i principals to take their time in planning the budget for the additional funding. He expects principals will go through the collaborative process involving the School Community Councils established by Act 51. With the school year ending for teachers of the East Complex schools on modified calendars on May 30, Hamada does not expect budget decisions now.

Academic/Financial plans based on the initial WSF budget allocations were approved by Hamada in January. Principals will be submitting the budgets with the adjusted amounts for approval again, but Hamada said he wants schools to make decisions based on data from the most recent administration of the Hawaii State Assessment in addition to school-level data. Results of the HSA are scheduled to be released in July.

The criteria Hamada will use to approve financial plans will include whether the plan meets the needs of the students and if a collaborative process involving faculty and SCCs was used to finalize the plans. Hamada said he doesn’t believe in micro-managing, but he needs assurance his criteria are being met and there is a sense of integrity built into the plans.

The losses reflected in school budgets prior to the $20 million infusion were held to 10 percent, a decision made by the Board of Education. A plan to phase in losses over four years was developed which called for the 10 percent cap in the first year, 25 percent in the second, 50 percent in the third, and then 100 percent in the fourth.

Hamada said the fear that the legislative one-year fix would only cause schools to feel deeper cuts in the following year may be unfounded. Two things are at work that may alter future budget allocations, he says. One is the legislative process that may see the $20 million become part of the base budget allocation for schools. Another is the work of the Committee on Weights.

The first COW moved about 70 percent of state funds into the Weighted Student Formula. The second COW is now looking at categorical funds, or funds for specific programs to decide which should go into the WSF. The COW is also looking at the work of the first committee to determine why some schools are looking at significant budget losses, Hamada said.

In addition, the COW is taking another look at what schools need to have in order to operate. Last year, principals and School Administrative Services Assistants were designated as essential. Schools may need more “foundation” personnel and resources, Hamada said.

COW recommendations are due to the BOE by July.

• Cynthia Matsuoka is a freelance writer for The Garden Island and former principal of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. She can be reached by e-mail at aharju@kauaipubco.com.

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