Schools say eliminating overseer of mandatory programs won't work
by Bret Yager Tribune-Herald Staff Writer
Published: Sunday, September 28, 2008 8:08 AM HST
Local charter school administrators aren't happy with a
Department of Education proposal to cut funding for 28 student services
coordinators at charter schools statewide.
The $1.9 million budget cut
for the 2009-11 fiscal biennium is a fraction of the $31 million budget
reduction the DOE is currently proposing for the entire education system. The
cuts are mandated by Gov. Linda Lingle as part of statewide belt-tightening to
meet a $900 general fund shortfall.
Under the new budget scenario,
individual charter schools would pay for their own student services
coordinators, using their per-pupil funding, which is just over $7,000 this
Steve Hirakami, director of the Hawaii Academy of Arts &
Sciences in Pahoa, questioned how cutting SSC funding will save money, since the
positions are mandatory and the money to pay the coordinators has to come from
somewhere. Cuts should be limited to optional programs, Hirakami
The DOE says the SSC positions are optional, though many of the
services they provide are not.
The cut eliminates duplication since the
money is already contained in charter school allocations for that purpose, the
John Thatcher, director of Connections Public Charter School,
said that cutting the salaries out of the DOE budget and making them the
responsibility of individual charter schools amounted to a shell
"It's just shifting the responsibility from the DOE side to the
charter schools," Thatcher said. "They're both public entities, and these
positions are required."
Thatcher said the cuts were a topic of a
teleconference by the Hawaii Charter Schools Network late this week. Thirteen of
the state's 31 charter schools are on the Big Island.
The SSC is usually
one of the highest paid positions -- $70,000 a year at the top end -- because
it's a 12-month position, Thatcher said. The DOE estimates average SSC salaries
Thatcher says student services coordinators are vital because
they ensure that schools are compliant with federal laws regarding student
services. It's impossible to do without one, he said.
Along with making
sure that mandated programs and services are available to students, coordinators
collect and report student data and administer tests, including those that
qualify students for special education programs.
While public schools
already pay for coordinators through per-student dollars, that becomes
unaffordable when you're talking about a school with 100 students, Hirakami
"The governor wanted cuts in discretionary funds. I don't see how
you can call this discretionary," Hirakami said. "Now, we have to go fight with
the governor and Budget and Finance to get that restored to our
The BOE is scheduled to discuss the cuts -- along with the rest
of its budget changes -- on Oct. 9, one day before the governor's deadline. The
BOE meeting had been scheduled for Kealakehe High School in Kona, but has been
moved to William McKinley High School on Oahu. That's because a triathlon is
being held in Kona on that day, said BOE spokesman Milton Goto.
having a very hard time getting accommodations and rental vehicles for the board
and staff," Goto said.
An Oct. 6 meeting of the BOE's Budget & Fiscal
Accountability Committee has also been moved to McKinley, where there is more
room for audience than at the prior location, Goto said.
department is still looking for programs to cut, DOE spokesperson Sandy Goya
said in an e-mail. The $31 million figure represents a 10 percent cut. Lingle
has requested 15 percent and 20 percent reduction scenarios as well.
said it was too early to tell if the DOE would create those additional