Hawai’i public school officials briefed members of the Legislature Friday. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.
The Legislature appropriated 1.6 billion dollars in state general funds to the Department of Education last year. House Education Committee chair, Justin Woodson, asked if that was enough.
“If you as the superintendent feel, in an ideal world, but also being realistic, if you had to increase the budget, specific to the Department of Education, what would that dollar amount be?”
DOE Superintendent, Christina Kishimoto, who was appointed last year, responded by saying some programs are underfunded but that’s not where the money should go.
“I need the best teachers in my classes and that takes higher ed being able to attract the top students going in there. But, at the end of the day, I need to be able to tell my teachers that I’m paying them a respectable, professional living wage in which they can have one job and hold the most important job in the state.”
The annual beginning teacher’s salary is 47-thousand dollars plus benefits. DOE Assistant Superintendent and Chief Financial Officer, Amy Kunz, says the DOE is underfunded between 50 and 200 million dollars and aging facilities also need attention.
“We have about a 300-million dollar repair and maintenance backlog and then, about another 150 million a year just to keep up with the new R&M backlog. Some of is roofs and gutters, it’s not all we’ve been getting to a 21st century learning environment.”
After the briefing, Hawai’i State Teacher’s Association president, Corey Rosenlee, said the teacher’s union is pushing to tax investment properties and visitor accommodations for education funding.
“The HSTA is putting up a constitutional amendment this year. And this will be the first time in Hawai’i’s history that the people of Hawai’i will get a chance to vote on whether we should increase funding for our public schools and we’re hoping that the legislature will allow the people to vote.”
A constitutional amendment must be approved by two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate for placement on the general election ballot. Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.