Charter schools shafted by DOE

Honolulu Star Bulletin



Sunday, August 3, 2003

Charter schools shafted by DOE

The settlement of the lawsuit that Connections Public Charter School brought against the state (Star-Bulletin, July 14) makes public the struggles that charter schools have had with the Department of Education in receiving their fair share of funding. Connections was fortunate to have the Legal Aid Society's assistance; otherwise, legal expenses may well have precluded Connections from taking the case to court.

Other charter schools also have disagreed with the DOE on funding. Although lawsuits are distasteful, they may be the only realistic option for resolving such disputes. But in 2002 an amendment to the charter school law went into effect, prohibiting charter schools from bringing lawsuits against state agencies. The DOE now may arbitrarily decide the amounts that charter schools receive without any worry of being corrected.

Apparently, the DOE doesn't like charter schools. Maybe that's because the concept did not originate within the DOE, but was initiated by the Legislature. Or maybe charter schools are a threat because they reduce the power of the DOE. Charter schools do not answer to the DOE in most matters. Instead, each school has its own board of directors. All available indicators show that charter schools are educating students at least as well as the other public schools, and in certain instances much better.

The deputy attorney general, who represented the DOE in the court case, is quoted as saying that charter schools are going through "growing pains." What he doesn't say is that the DOE administration is the cause of many of these pains. With the proper administrative support, there is no limit to what charter schools can do to improve public education in Hawaii.

John Kawamoto