The Department of Education has a special reward for Kohala High School. Kohala is one of the few Big Island schools not deemed ‘failing’ under “No Child Left Behind” standards. Under formulas used by the Board of Education under Act 51, successful schools are often punished by budget cuts. Kohala HS will be losing $500,000 in funding for the 2009-10 school year.
When Legislative Democrats blocked Governor Lingle’s 2004 proposal to break the State Department of Education into local school districts, they created the “weighted student formula” under Act 51 “Reinventing Education.” The Board of Education’s “Committee on Weights” (COW) June 16 released its 2009-10 proposed spending figures for every school in the state.
The committee’s formula sets a fixed per-student value, then adds more money for students deemed ‘disabled’, low income students, and students whose first language is not English. As a result schools lose money as they do better academically and school administrators have a perverse incentive to label as many children as possible ‘developmentally disabled’—a label which often is accompanied by a prescription for Ritalin or other psychoactive drugs.
Because Kohala is so successful at educating students, it’s 2008-09 funding of $8425 per student will be cut to $6593 in 2009-10. The funding cuts amount to a loss of $1832 per student. Kohala HS serves 273 students in the Hawi and Kapa`au area at the northern tip of the Big Island. The next nearest school is 30 miles away in Waimea.
The DoE’s overall budget is $2.451 billion. The system is projected to serve in 2008-09 only 173,142 students down from 181,335 in 2004-05. The DoE budget averages out to $14,300 per student for 2008-09.
Under the formula, some schools receive much larger amounts than others. Moloka`i Middle School with 144 students will see $9028 in per-student funding for 2009-10. But Moloka`i HS will only get $6447. Lana`i HS and Elementary with 563 students will get $6347. Kealakehe HS in Kona will get $4799 per student. Hilo High will get $4881, Pahoa $5825, Kea`au $5072, Ka`u $5646, Honoka`a, $5345, Laupahoehoe $7460, Konawaena, $5683.
Large schools such as Farrington High School on O`ahu will be funded $5147 per student in 2009-10, but that is an 11% increase over the $4624 per student Farrington receives for the 2008-09 school year.
Patrick Walsh, a reform-oriented candidate for Herbert Watanabe’s BoE seat elected from Hawai`i, Maui and Kaua`i Counties pledged to “speak up for continuing support and equal funding for all schools regardless of their size or location.”
Complete funding figures for every school in the state: