New funding formula for Hawai‘i schools

HONOLULU — Small and isolated schools in Hawai‘i may get less money next year, but multi-track schools are guaranteed to get more.

The Board of Education on Tuesday approved a new Weighted Student Formula that gets rid of funding adjustments for schools facing challenges because of size or geographic isolation.

The new formula instead gives the superintendent a $3 million discretionary account to help those schools as needed.

Meanwhile, multi-track schools will get an extra $80,000 each to help cover the costs of operating year-round.

The Department of Education has budgeted $745 million next year for the Weighted Student Formula, which is used to determine how much discretionary money each school gets per year. The formula begins with a base allocation for each type of school (elementary, middle, high, elementary multi-track, etc.) and adds funds based on student and school characteristics. Schools get more money for each special education or English language learner student, for example. Neighbor Island schools also get an additional amount.

The new base amounts will be as follows:

• Elementary: $200,000

• Elementary Multi-Track: $280,000

• Middle: $347,000

• Middle Multi-Track: $427,000

• High: $354,000

• K-8 or K-9 Combination: $403,000

• 6-12 Combination: $410,000

• K-12 Combination: $465,000

Principals from some small and isolated schools spoke out against the new formula at board meetings and in written testimony.

Matthew Hall, who submitted testimony to the board, said that some small-school budgets had dropped to 65 percent of their 2005 levels under the old formula. Weighted student formula was implemented in 2006.

The dwindling funds have caused many small schools to cut staff, faculty and programs, he wrote in his testimony to the board.

“The (Weighted Student Formula) has failed because (1) it is inequitable,” Hall wrote.

“Why should a student in a small school district be forced to sit in dual curriculum classes with less resources, student programs, and support staff?”

He said that eliminating the small-school bonus will make it difficult for those schools to comply with federal and state requirements.

The biggest losers next year, per the projected allocations based on the new formula, will be:

• Kilohana Elementary in Kaunakakai on Molokai: $181,000, or a 26 percent cut

• Kohala High on the Big Island: $365,000 loss, or a 23 percent cut

• Waiahole Elementary in Kaneohe on O‘ahu: $121,000, or a 22 percent cut

• Ka‘a‘awa Elementary on O‘ahu: $159,000, or an 18 percent cut

• Ho‘okena Elementary in Captain Cook on Big Island: $137,000, or a 17 percent cut

• Jarrett Middle in Palolo on O‘ahu: $252,000 loss, or a 16 percent cut

• Red Hill Elementary near Moanlua Valley on O‘ahu: $285,000, or a 16 percent cut

• Linapuni Elementary in Kalihi: $201,000, or a 13 percent cut

• Honaunau Elementary in Captain Cook on the Big Island: $111,000, or a 12 percent cut

The Committee on Weights, which meets annually to make adjustments to the formula, recommended that the department hire an expert to evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of the state’s Weighted Student Formula law.

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