EIH Successfully Obtains Complete HIDOE Financial Records
News Release from Education Institute of Hawaii, December 15, 2020
HONOLULU, Hawaii — After a back and forth conducted in the First Circuit Court, the Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) agreed to share its financial records with the Education Institute of Hawaii (EIH). This concludes a multiyear undertaking by EIH to receive complete financial records for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. By breaking the information log-jam at HIDOE, this action sets the stage for future requests filed under Hawaii’s Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA), especially for more recent data.
HIDOE needs transparency to allow for the public, and lawmakers, to ask questions and enable shared agency to make informed decisions for our communities. “To have any sense of empowerment, you have to have an idea of the fiscal health of the department, and given the current situation, fiscal transparency becomes absolutely critical if we are to navigate the fiscal crisis the pandemic has brought on. Additionally, why not use the data and determine if there are other pathways in finding fiscal elasticity within the HIDOE budget rather than execute a knee-jerk response to bad decision-making at the top via furloughs. It would seem to me that all other courses of action should be explored before one teacher is furloughed or loses a day of pay. We hope the analysis of the data will bear this out,” says EIH Chairman and President Ray L'Heureux.
EIH retained EduAnalytics, LLC, a Pennsylvania-based firm that specializes in K-12 education financial data, to analyze HIDOE’s financial records, with the goal of receiving an accurate financial picture of HIDOE’s annual $2.1 billion budget, down to the school level — 100 percent of education dollars received and spent. EIH and EduAnalytics received the requested HIDOE detailed fiscal year 2016 and 2017 financial data in October 2020.
Although the data is not current, it demonstrates the way funds are distributed through the HIDOE system and provides insights into future data requests. To review the financial records provided by HIDOE, visit https://bit.ly/hidoe-data to download a zip file containing the original Excel spreadsheets and EduAnalytics’ annotated spreadsheets. For a copy of EIH’s motion for partial summary judgment, a comprehensive 206-page document that details the entire lawsuit, visit https://bit.ly/eih-motion.
Hawaii ranks poorly in providing access to government spending data. Underscoring this reputation is Gov. David Ige’s action this year suspending the UIPA; on March 16, 2020, Gov. Ige issued a proclamation suspending the UIPA in its entirety. This proclamation was amended on May 5, 2020, to restore UIPA’s power but allows government agencies to essentially ignore any requests that contain a deadline.
EIH believes that transparency is the first necessary step to transform Hawaii’s over-centralized public school system into an empowered system that is schools-centered and allows education professionals closest to the children to determine how best to meet children’s needs. “A four-and-a-half year wait, including a court action, to obtain personally unidentifiable public financial data does not demonstrate transparency,” says Jay F. May, CPA, CEO of EduAnalytics, LLC.
EduAnalytics’ experience in Hawaii spans more than two decades, beginning in 1995 when former state Auditor General Marion Higa asked EduAnalytics professionals to help bring transparency and detailed analysis to HIDOE, in line with her annual oversight responsibilities. For the past five years, HIDOE, when asked, withheld from the EIH/EduAnalytics analysis team its detailed public financial data — defying Hawaii’s UIPA statute protecting access to public records.
EIH’s budget transparency project dates back to 2016. At that time, the EIH/EduAnalytics project team solicited HIDOE to join this project team, share analysis design ideas, and to cooperate on data processes as equal participants. HIDOE declined this invitation and chose not to participate.
On March 6, 2018, EIH filed 12 separate requests for financial data with HIDOE under Hawaii’s open record laws, but HIDOE refused to provide much of the requested information and failed to provide prompt responses to EIH’s requests, despite its legal obligation to do so.
After waiting 16 months, EIH decided to sue HIDOE and also named Superintendent Christina M. Kishimoto in the lawsuit, because of her efforts to discourage EIH’s public inquiry. Attorneys Jeff Portnoy and John Duchemin, partners at Cades Schutte LLP, represented EIH pro bono. The lawsuit to compel production of the requested records was filed on July 11, 2019. Approximately 15 months later, HIDOE released the data in October 2020. Portions of the lawsuit are still pending, but the financial data logjam is broken!
About the Education Institute of Hawaii
The Education Institute of Hawaii is an education think tank and catalyst for public school transformation whose purpose is to advocate for and improve public education in Hawaii so that more children thrive and more professionals reach their full potential as educators. Comprised of award-winning current and retired educators, principals, teachers and parents, EIH’s vision is of an exemplary Hawaii public education system that embraces empowerment, innovation, and transparency in all schools. Visit edthinktankhawaii.org for more information, and connect with EIH on Twitter.
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