Federal funding

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 8:42 AM HST
Charter schools respond

During a recent Board of Education meeting, the Department of Education's administrator of Special Programs said that the DOE must work harder to ensure the schools are in compliance with federal law because many of the state's charter schools have opted out of purchasing DOE technology. She also said, "The DOE must take the extra steps because the state could be in jeopardy of losing millions in federal education funds if all schools -- traditional public and charter alike -- don't follow the rules."

The Hawaii Charter Schools Network is a statewide organization founded to support our charter schools. We would like to respond to these accusations publicly.

We agree that the state is in jeopardy of loosing millions of dollars in federal funding. But our charter schools are not to blame. In fact, we have been asking the BOE and the DOE to follow the law for years.

Hawaii state law specifically says: "Charter Schools shall be eligible for all federal financial support to the same extent as all other public schools... Federal funds received by the department for charter schools shall be transferred to the office for distribution to charter schools in accordance with the federal requirements."

The reality is that charter schools are not receiving their fair share of federal funding. Last year the charter schools did not receive their share of over $11,000,000 in federal funding. In fact, according to the superintendent's latest report, the DOE received $1,045,200,000 in federal funding between 2004 and 2006. Of that, they spent only $657,600,000. We question what has happened to almost 40 percent of more than a billion dollars.

In a recent report to the Hawaii State Legislature dated Jan. 26, 2007, it was noted that the DOE spends an average of only 52 percent of its federal funding to support the No Child Left Behind Act. Part of the explanation by the DOE was that schools are often unsure of the amounts of federal funds available to them.

BOE member Maggie Cox, said, "I think we're all groping on how to do this the right way, because nobody wants to lose federal funds."

Apparently the DOE has already lost federal funds. The Superintendent's Annual Report documents a "loss" of $387,600,000. BOE member Mary Cochran would like the public to believe that the "BOE lost most of its authority to police the charter schools but is still held accountable and could lose funding for all schools if the charter schools don't follow the federal law."

How can the charter schools be blamed for loosing money they never received? When the federal authorities demand that the BOE return unspent federal money, smoke, mirrors and false accusations won't appease them.

John Thatcher


Public Charter School

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