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Charter schools need stable budget formula

At the end of the long, heated discussion at the state Capitol over how much Hawai'i's charter schools should get during a tight budgetary year, there will remain children who deserve equitable treatment by their education system.


They and their families won't care why the charter system's budgetary request was thinned out, dropping from roughly $70.1 million to $56.2 million.

All that they and their families will care about is that after almost a decade after charter schools were founded under state law there is still no truly rational way of allotting money to these schools, which are meant to offer innovative approaches to learning.

Lawmakers should do their best to give the schools what they'll need to function this school year, though at this point it seems likely that the end result will still fall far short of what the campuses truly need.

Among the primary problems is the lack of facilities support. While it's true that the state has never committed to absorbing the facilities cost for the charters, the fact that part of their budget has to put a roof over the head of students each year means that margins are thin and every cut feels especially painful.

In recent years there have been inconsistencies over which employee fringe benefits and other operational expenses are awarded to the schools and which are administered by the state. That simply can't continue indefinitely.

And that's why, after the current budget is settled, lawmakers and other stakeholders need to meet and adopt consistent budget formulas.

There has been work done toward that end already: A working group involving representatives of the charter schools, the state school board and the administration has reached an accord over budgeting. That language should be discussed and refined before the next legislative session.

For their part, charter school leaders also need to hear ideas on how their mission could be met more effectively, and be willing to make changes to help strengthen service to Hawai'i's children.

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